THE Irish racing community and equestrian circle were shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ann Ferris last week. The legendary Ulster amateur rider and the first woman to win the Irish Grand National, Ferris (nee Rooney) sadly passed away on Wednesday of last week.
The local amateur rider was All-Ireland Champion point to point rider in 1976, when partnering 23 winners in an era when the fixtures were much more compact with the single spring season. Ann was a great regular at local race meetings and point to points and only in recent weeks attended a show jumping event as a spectator.
The champion rider from Glengormley recorded her most important victory and created history when winning the Irish National in 1984 on ‘Bentom Boy’, trained by her father and legendary rider Willie Rooney, with another local runner ‘Sicilian Answer’ filling second. On a great day for the Rooney family, Ann’s sister the late Rosemary Rooney finished third on ‘Dawson Prince’, with Rosemary the following year sharing the All-Ireland Championship with Nicky Dee. The sisters also went into the history books, with no female riders matching their achievements.
Ann was no stranger to big race success and won the Irish Sweeps Hurdle, then the biggest hurdling prize in the Irish racing calendar for trainer, Arthur Moore on ‘Irian’ five years earlier in 1979.
Only last year, Ann appeared in an RTÉ News feature reflecting on the great achievements of Rachael Blackmore after she had become the first female jockey to win the Aintree equivalent and, in more recent years, kept a cob to ride out. Ann was married to the late Harry Ferris, a major figure in farming in the Newry area and had two children, Gaye and Billy and condolences are offered to the large family circle.
A private funeral took place last week.
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