National Velvet was becoming an altogether more believable story last night after a second National victory for Ted and Ruby Walsh. The father and son, trainer and jockey, struck in the Irish version yesterday with Commanche Court, one of only 14 horses trained by Walsh snr, just 16 days after Papillon's success at Aintree. It was a fairy story at Fairyhouse.
Ted Walsh now becomes the first trainer to win both Nationals in the same season. Ruby is the second jockey to complete the riding double following Tommy Carberry's wins on L'Escargot and Brown Lad in 1975. As the gentlemen of the press started to listen to the loquacious Ted tell how he did it yesterday, the realisation will have crept over them that this year there would be no time for Christmas shopping.
It is a result which will have huge economic repercussions for Co Kildare. Photographers will once more be called out to Ted's yard near Kill and jostle to take a picture on the lawn of the winning triumvirate plus matriarch Helen and other children Jennifer, Ruby's agent, Ted jnr, who doubles as a prop forward for Naas, and Katie, 15, who rides out the great horse.
Poor old Papillon may try to recollect what he was doing when Commanche Court relieved him of the thunder, and Rince Ri, the best of the lot of them in the yard, will deduce that he will have to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup to trump this.
Ted will almost certainly get his riding boots on again as he escorts Commanche Court through the local throng. There will be a parade, with the winner preceded by a lone piper, celebrations at the local, The Old House, followed by the nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel just up the road. There will be a party back at home and, as you read this, they will more than likely be forcing the front door on the last of the stragglers. It was like this two and a half weeks ago for the Walsh's once-in-a-lifetime victory.
It was, as on Merseyside, an almost faultless performance by horse and jockey. Lancastrian Jet led for a long way for Henry Daly yesterday, and his stablemate, Edmond, was also in the vanguard on the final circuit. Yet they were increasingly under pressure to keep their positions as a wave of home runners sheltered in behind.
The well-backed Foxchapel King tried to slip the field around the final bend and succeeded in detaching all but Commanche Court. Soon the parasite was overtaking the host. The 14-1 shot bounded clear and suddenly the new millennium was rivalling the last in the affections of Ruby Walsh.
Ruby was six when his father partnered the last of his four Cheltenham Festival successes, Attitude Adjuster in the 1986 Foxhunters'. It was the same day as Dawn Run won the Gold Cup. He has grown up to be a jockey with considerably more panache then Ted, closer to the seat and style of Richard Dunwoody. This has not been achieved by chance.
Ruby made it big last year when he won the Irish jockeys' title at the age of 20, profiting from an injury to Paul Carberry as the championship was building towards a climax. This year Walsh himself has suffered. He broke his collar-bone in September, was back for 10 days and then broke his leg at the Pardubice meeting in the Czech Republic. It all looked rather miserable. But then came Papillon. And then came yesterday. "He jumped brilliantly, travelled great and won in a canter," the jockey said. "I am delighted for Dad."
This was quite a long sentence with Ted around but the winning trainer was soon on hand with his thoughts. "The gods have been smiling on the Walsh family this month," he said. "Commanche Court changed our lives when he won the Triumph Hurdle [in 1997] and they said that would be his death knell but he's proved them wrong. Commanche Court is a little star."
As the Irish celebrated, the English could file only losers' reports. Norman Williamson, who finished ninth on Avanti Express for Charlie Egerton, said: "I thought I was going to win turning in but he hit a brick wall and didn't stay."
The going was too fast for Henry Daly's runners. "I pulled him up before five out," Jason Titley, Lancastrian Jet's rider, said. "He gave me a great spin but they were just too quick for him." Richard Johnson, Edmond's partner, added: "The ground was too quick for him and I pulled him up turning in after they got away from me."
Richard Guest, on Norman Mason's Red Marauder, did at least manage to finish. "No excuses, he's just 10lb too high in the weights," the jockey said. "He got round okay and we beat one home." Commanche Court, however, beat the lot for the Walsh family, and, on recent form, Elizabeth Taylor and The Pie are only forecast material for the Implausible National.Reuse content