Racing: Walsh picks himself up after day at school of hard knocks

In the mayhem of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, French jockey Thierry Majorcryk brushed his fingertips against the mythical hard knocks trophy. But however mournful he felt on his ambulance ride to hospital, he must have known the trophy was already beyond his reach. Ruby Walsh, whose first day at the festival was dream-like in the perfection of his two winning rides, had it all bandaged up.

Each year, disaster of one kind or another is delivered and received with no more complaint than a grimace and a wry smile of resignation by one of the defiant breed who come here with a stunning lack of concern for their safety.

Majorcryk's candidacy, however, could scarcely have been briefer. He was eventually unseated by his mount Kario De Sormain after an heroic effort to stay aboard that started in the landing zone of the first fence and finished as his rivals were beginning to focus on the next obstacle. But already, Walsh was on his own destructive path. He fell on the blazing favourite Kauto's Star at the third, and there were gasps of concern as he lay inert. In the previous race, the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, Walsh had also fallen at the third, on the much-fancied Our Ben.

There you had all of National Hunt racing encapsulated in less than an hour of outrageously random fate.

On Tuesday, the 26-year-old from County Kildare - the third generation of a brilliant family of horsemen and, in the case of his father, trainer and broadcaster Ted, a brilliant raconteur - defined mastery of his hazardous calling. His timing in a victory over his fierce rival Tony McCoy in the first could not have been bettered by a young Lester Piggott, of whom his trainer Sir Noel Murless once said: "Lester's relationship with a horse is something I would never begin to try to explain... it is an absolute mystery, known only to Lester, the horse and God." Walsh showed that kind of mystical feel and balance when he brought in Noland by a neck over McCoy's Straw Bear, then redoubled the effect when he showed a jockey's ultimate patience by picking the leaders off in a bewitching charge up the rising ground on Dun Doire.

No wonder Walsh reported for duty in the valley yesterday with the buoyant stride of a man who had every reason to believe he was living one of the most thrilling passages of a career already magnificently secure with two Grand National wins and a string of successes here in testing ground for the greatest jump horses in the world. What he wanted most out of the day, apart from stretching his narrow lead over McCoy as the festival's leading jockey, was a historic victory over the legendary, twice winner of the Queen Mother Chase, Moscow Flyer. He said with perhaps dangerous optimism: "I'm thrilled with my rides through the festival... I've a great chance of some more wins."

Later, after seeing his Equus Maximus backed down to 3-1 favouritism in the final race, the Champion Bumper - and perhaps, given the day, an inevitably anonymous place in the middle of the pack - Walsh mustered that resigned smile and said: "It was not what I had in mind, but I can't complain. It could have been a hell of a lot worse. I just have a few bruises." Nothing then, to worry about, in the tradition of the jump jockey. When doctors at the local hospital examined Majorcryk they cryptically reported he was suffering from thigh, chest and pelvic injuries. However, according to an official announcement, the racecourse doctors said they did not consider the injuries serious. This might have been because all vital body parts were still attached.

Today Walsh will attend to his bruises and resume his battle with McCoy. It is a beautifully balanced one, with both men claiming high marks among the cognoscenti for various aspects of their extraordinary talent; McCoy for the intensity of his attack, his flamboyant belief he is entitled to win every race he enters, Walsh for the empathy he so quickly establishes with any horse he encounters.

History will almost certainly nominate McCoy, despite his lack of a Grand National win; he has the blue riband trophies of Cheltenham, and an amazing 10-year reign as champion jockey. Terry Biddlecome, a great jump jockey of his time who thought nothing of arriving at the course still wearing his evening dress, entered the debate with some candour yesterday when he contemplated Walsh's journey into such unexpected disaster.

"You get used to days like that as a jockey; you just have to shake them off. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of Ruby at this meeting. He rode brilliantly on the first day and just had some very bad luck today. There was nothing he could do when both horses fell. You just have to roll with it and come back the next day. Ruby Walsh is a fantastic jockey and horseman. He has a tremendous understanding of a horse; he get things from one that you just might not believe are there. Not many riders have that. But then I think McCoy is better."

Why? You suggest it is because he has the greater rage to win, the more relentless determination to get the horse first past the post. Is he just harder? Biddlecombe didn't demur.

Nor did Walsh when the fates did their worst through a day that became a little longer, and colder, with each dismaying race. He simply picked himself up and got on with the job, not least when he guided the long-shot Phar Bleu into perfect position as they came to the rising ground. It was the point at which 24 hours earlier he would have expected to ease past the post. But yesterday there was not a splutter of winning life. Walsh shrugged his shoulders. In all his glory, he has had enough practice. All the contenders for the hard knock trophies do.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk