There is nothing unusual about the sight of tears in the winner’s enclosure here at Prestbury Park, but Katie Walsh’s were prompted by a contrasting pair of emotions yesterday as she reflected on her first festival winner at this festival in seven years.
A top amateur jockey with a bag of high-profile wins in the last six years, Walsh partnered Relegate to victory in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper a little over three hours after watching brother Ruby being helped into an ambulance after a punishing fall.
Ruby had been on board Al Boum Photo in the RSA Chase when he came crashing down.
It was later confirmed the champion jockey had aggravated the leg broken just last November and which had sidelined him until last week.
Katie and their father Ted were among the first on the scene when the incident happened at the second-last fence in the second race of seven yesterday and in front of a record Wednesday crowd for the festival of 58,932.
“I’m torn a bit,” said Katie.
“I’m a very emotional person anyway. I really appreciate days like these, but I just feel sorry for Ruby. Once we were around the corner behind the screens and he was up and talking to me, that’s the main thing. It’s not as bad as it first seems, I think. He’ll be back.”
Ruby was taken to Gloucester Royal Hospital and will see his specialist in Dublin next week. With two winners on Tuesday, he had left his mark behind him yet again, although the Irish challenge didn’t falter in his absence.
Six of the races went the way of Irish-trained entrants, with Willie Mullins adding a pair to the three he claimed on the opening day and Gordon Elliott chipping in with a hat-trick of his own that started with raging hot favourite Samcro in the opener.
Luck has little to do with such things and yet the horse’s owner, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, did point out he had changed his jacket from the one worn the previous day, opting instead for the tweed number worn two years ago when Don Cossack won the Gold Cup.
Whatever the juju on the day, Elliott was thrilled after a blank Tuesday. “Last night I was trying to get a Ryanair flight home and I was in bed by half-past nine. It won’t be the same tonight,” he said.
The only Irish winner not claimed by the giant operations based in Closutton and Cullentra was sourced in Craughwell, Co Galway, trainer Pat Kelly working his magic with a third festival win in as many years via Presenting Percy’s success in the RSA Chase.
Kelly has just 15 horses in his yard. Elliott and Mullins, by way of comparison, have more than twice that in Cheltenham this week alone. So, this isn’t dissimilar to a non-league club making the FA Cup final and then beating a Premier League club when they get there.
Percy’s owner is Philip Reynolds, a son of the late Albert Reynolds, and he paid tribute to the “genius” of his trainer. So did Davy Russell, the Youghal jockey who partnered the seven-year old to victory, a week after the passing of his mother Phyllis.
“Look, they’re all special, but Mam was the most outstanding woman,” he said.
“She reared six kids and a business, along with my dad, and they’ll be in floods of tears at home. She was a great woman. She was my mother. It’s fantastic.”
The winner of the big race, incidentally, was Altior. England’s one success on Ladies Day and what an eventful one it was.
So much so that the traditional and, dare we say it, dated ‘best dressed’ brouhaha passed by with barely a glance.
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