JOHNNY Murtagh knew what was coming – and made a desperate gallop to avoid it.
Drenched to the skin by fellow jockeys, who had sprayed him with the contents of five bottles of champagne, he quipped: "That's the first drink I've had in years," before politely finishing up his acceptance speech and dashing wildly from the podium.
But it was no use. Murtagh was picked up like a bag of oats by the likes of Ruby Walsh, Davy Russell, Barry Geraghty and Pat Smullen, marched over to the trough – and dunked.
Gasping, the champion flat jockey retaliated. He picked up a nearby bucket and hurled five gallons of water at them – and another into the crowd for good measure.
Little Aaron Palmer (2), from Liscarroll, Co Cork – who was among those who had gotten the worst of the splashes from Murtagh's gallons, along with his sister Katie (6) – was miraculously calm, aside from a quivering lip.
Picking him up, trainer Ted Walsh bellowed from the crowd at Murtagh with a twinkle in his eye – and the jockey dashed over to repent.
High-jinks and the cream of Irish racing – it was a mesmerising combination and spectators watched from the perimeters in amazed joy at this box-office opportunity.
The 'Be There for JT & Jonjo' raceday event for the jockeys' emergency fund at Limerick Racecourse was predicted to be a special one.
But even organisers, who had spent months in the planning, could not have foreseen the unique alchemy that mingled genuine goodwill towards a very good cause with spectacular sunshine, showstopping racing and universally high spirits for a flawless day out.
The fact that Tony McCoy auctioned off a signed pair of his own underpants was yet another sign, if we needed one, that jockeys are a big-hearted lot – and surprisingly wacky when they're not charging towards the final furlong.
Everyone from the Irish racing scene was there, along with top British jockeys – as well as 10,500 race-goers.
By the end of the day, at least half a million had been raised and probably more in the final tallies after the silent auction. That included prizes like solid grey racing silks – for which JP McManus placed a bid of €20,000.
"He's in all our thoughts," he said of JT, adding that he hoped they would "have him back at an occasion like this soon".
JT McNamara and Jonjo Bright, both of whom were left paralysed in racing accidents, were represented by their parents, and JT's wife, Caroline. JT is said to be doing well after being moved to a centre in Liverpool and is now able to breathe off a ventilator for several minutes. Jonjo is home and is said to be doing well, with movement in his arms.
Jockeys put their lives on the line "day in, day out for everybody's enjoyment" but do not get enough recognition for this, said trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said their lives had been turned upside down and they now faced challenges that dwarfed any they had faced in the sporting arena.
Former Ireland international Niall Quinn with Hull manager Steve Bruce were there, as was Danny O'Reilly from the Coronas, who revealed that a visit to the Coolmore stud with a friend had left him hooked on racing.
Commentary throughout the day was provided by racing pundit Matt Chapman, who said it was a unique event. Chapman, a presenter on TV channel 'At the Races', also said that the fact so many top British jockeys had travelled over showed how close the racing community was.
"We wouldn't have missed this," declared Avena O'Keeffe from, Cashel, and Hilary O'Connor, from Fethard in Co Tipperary.
Both friends of JT McNamara for more than 20 years, Avena regularly rode out with the champion jockey.
"He's a terrific guy and has a fantastic wife and kids. We just want him to have a good standard of living and a quality of life," she said.
"Bad things have happened but God is good," said Johnny Murtagh.