Ireland 14 England 13
THIS was the sensational 'scoreline' after the final day of the Cheltenham Festival saw a 659/1 four-timer seal a record haul of winners for the Irish.
Tom Mullins' JP McManus-owned Alderwood, a heavily backed 2/1 favourite, cruised up under AP McCoy in the Grand Annual finale to complete the sweep. The win meant that Irish trainers outscored their English counterparts for a first time in the history of the Festival, shading the 27-race programme by one.
Goresbridge-based Mullins joked: "To give Ireland the deciding victory of the week, it's probably the first time I've done anything in my life!"
Willie Mullins capped a wonderful week for his Closutton stable by earning the Irish Independent leading trainer's award. Of the 27 winners, 20 were Irish-bred, 19 ridden by Irish jockeys, and 10 products of the Irish point-to-point scene.
The final day went a long way to recovering what had been a beano for the bookmakers 24 hours earlier.
However, a dark cloud hung over the meeting as leading amateur JT McNamara remained in an induced coma in intensive care last night in hospital in Bristol following a crushing fall on Thursday.
McManus said of the 37-year-old, who frequently rides for him: "We're all thinking of JT and what he's going through. We feel guilty being here today, we feel we should be doing something for him. All our prayers are with him and hopefully they will be answered."