"Dad was with us all today" - Poignant tribute to Dessie Hughes as Katie Walsh wins National
Katie Walsh became only the third female jockey in history to claim the BoyleSports Irish Grand National as she guided Thunder And Roses to an emotional victory at Fairyhouse.
It is 31 years since Ann Ferris struck gold aboard Bentom Boy, while Nina Carberry also enjoyed National glory aboard Organisedconfusion in 2011.
Thunder And Roses was a 20-1 shot for the Easter Monday highlight for Sandra Hughes, who took over the training licence following the death of her father, Dessie, who trained Timbera to win the 2003 Irish Grand National, in November.
The seven-year-old was part of a wave of three runners for leading 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 to secure a four-and-a-quarter-length victory.
Rule The World held onto 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, sister of legendary jockey Ruby and daughter of trainer Ted, 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 said: "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."
Tony McCoy, riding in his final Irish Grand National before retirement, finished sixth aboard the Paul Webber-trained Cantlow.
"The horse ran well but the ground was a little bit tacky for him," said McCoy.
"I thought he had a little chance turning in, but the ground got the better of him.
"It was great for Sandra Hughes and Katie Walsh - brilliant."
Last year's winner Thousand Stars had to make do with an honourable second as Dedigout (2-1 favourite) rounded off an excellent campaign with a resounding triumph under Paul Carberry in the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle.
Trainer Tony Martin said: "Last year he looked like a real World Hurdle horse but then chipped his knee in December.
"He's had a great year and we'll lock him up now for next year and take it from there."
The County Meath-based trainer went on to complete a double as 4-1 favourite I Shot The Sheriff scooted home in the Boomerang Animal Bedding Handicap Hurdle under Paul Townend.
Willie Mullins was predictably amongst the winners once again, getting the afternoon off to a flyer with the Paul Townend-ridden Buiseness Sivola (7-1) in the REA Grimes Property Consultants Hurdle.
Mullins said: "We'll look forward to Punchestown now."
The champion trainer was back in the winner's enclosure after 9-4 favourite Sempre Medici proved much too good for his opponents in the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Even better was to come for Ruby Walsh and Mullins as the much-vaunted Vroum Vroum Mag (1-4 favourite) sauntered 13 lengths clear in the John & Chich Fowler Memorial EBF Mares Chase.
The trainer said: "We'll try and find something in Punchestown for her.
"I don't think there is a mares' races and we'll look at the novice races.
"She'll also get an entry for the mares' hurdle at Punchestown.
"She could go back to France, also.
"She looks a nice prospect for next year."
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