Katie Walsh became only the third woman to ride the winner of the Irish Grand National when she guided Thunder And Roses to an emotional victory at Fairyhouse today.
Thunder And Roses was a 20-1 success for Sandra Hughes, who took over the training licence following the death of her father, Dessie, in November.
The seven-year-old was part of a wave of three runners for owners Gigginstown House Stud disputing the lead at the top of the home straight. Thunder And Roses, Rule The World and Band Of Blood jumped the final fence virtually as one, but it was the former who picked up best, galloping all the way to the line for a four-and-a-quarter-length victory. Rule The World held on to the runner-up spot from Sizing Coal, with Band Of Blood weakening on the run-in for fourth spot.
In a dramatic race, five horses came to grief at the first fence and only nine of the 28 runners completed the course.
Walsh said: “This is absolutely class. I’ve had some fantastic days, but this is an Irish National. It’s great for women in racing.”
Hughes added: “Katie was absolutely fantastic, she just suited him to a tee. She was brilliant and he [Thunder And Roses] was brilliant. Someone above was helping us out. Dad always loved this race and to do it for him is wonderful. Dad was with us all the way.”
Dessie Hughes saddled Timbera to win the 2003 Irish Grand National.
Tony McCoy, sixth aboard the Paul Webber-trained Cantlow in his final Irish Grand National before retirement, paid tribute to the winners, saying: “It was great for Sandra Hughes and Katie Walsh – brilliant.”
Ann Ferris was the first woman to ride an Irish Grand National winner, on Bentom Boy in 1984, while Nina Carberry took the contest aboard Organisedconfusion four years ago.
Carberry will ride First Lieutenant in the Gigginstown House Stud silks for trainer Mouse Morris in Saturday’s Grand National at Aintree, for which there were 65 acceptors at the penultimate declaration stage yesterday.
Walsh, who finished third on the joint-favourite Seabass three years ago, is without a mount this time, although some riding arrangements have yet to be finalised.
Among the lower weights Soll, seventh in the National two years ago and winner of both his starts since joining David Pipe, is now 38th in the handicap and assured of a place in the 40-runner field.