A dream comes true for the
SOMETIMES you might as well just give up the ghost. There was a palpable sense of tension in the air as baffled punters tried to recoup the week's devastating losses.
They were punting, and punting heavily, as they banked on Ruby Walsh's mount, the out-and-out favourite Kauto Star, to shine over his stablemate Denman in the most hotly awaited race of the year, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
But punters learned quickly there is no such thing as a 'two-horse' race. One moment they had been handing over wads of cash thick and fast to the bookies. Seconds later, they stood aghast, hands to their faces, as Kauto Star took a crashing fall.
Once again, a favourite was wiped out in the worst week ever for punters at the festival, and the whip was handed over to the British-trained Imperial Commander, who did the honours with Galway jockey Paddy Brennan aboard.
So as the Walsh family prepared for their end-of-festival celebrations last night, they could never have imagined the source of their family pride.
Ruby was one hour distant from his Gold Cup date with Kauto Star when his little sister wrote a fresh chapter in a scarcely credible Festival story.
Katie Walsh arrived in England on Sunday morning with no booked rides and thoughts only of helping Willie Mullins throughout the week.
She returned home last night with two winners from as many rides, the second of them aboard the Mullins-trained Thousand Stars in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle.
Katie learnt that she would be riding Thousand Stars just hours after she landed the National Hunt Chase on Wednesday.
Mullins said: "Even though she rides as an amateur, she has the brains of a professional. I love putting her up, and she showed everyone why today."
There may have been mixed emotions with the famous Walsh dynasty following the main race of the day, but it was quite simply a dream week for amateur jockey Katie.
Racing pundit Ted Walsh's beaming face could be seen on the big screens.
"She'll not forget this week for the rest of her life," he said as his 25-year-old daughter Katie was first past the post for the second time this week.
"Isn't she something? She's unbelievable." He rushed down to the winners' enclosure to deliver a kiss on her cheek and hand her back her whip.
Her proud mum Helen joked that there was "no sibling rivalry" between the pair after Ruby congratulated his sister.
"There will be some celebrations, let me tell you," Katie quipped. "I haven't even started celebrating the first.
"It hasn't even sunk in. I feel like I should pinch myself to wake up, it's absolutely magic. Everyone is here as well that counts," she said.
Elsewhere on the track, "This is the hammer and I am the trowel," said blocklayer Sean Dean, half of the owning Hammer and Trowel syndicate with carpenter Ger O'Brien.
The two men, who live in Clane, Co Kildare, joked that they definitely needed the money now with the collapsed building trade.
Earlier, siblings of former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey's daughter Eimear Mulhern had gathered in the ring as Puyol lined out for the race in the famous red and white colours of her husband, the trainer and businessman John Mulhern, who died earlier this week.
It was the turn of the 33-1 long-shot Berties Dream, owned by the eight-member Half A Keg syndicate from East Wall in Dublin, to take centre stage at the Cheltenham 2.40 with a chorus of 'Go on you boys in blue'.
"Maybe it's a good omen," mused one punter ahead of the GAA season as the colours of the Dublin GAA team exploded into the winners' enclosure.
Conor Broderick, revealed the horse was named after his late father, Bertie, a mammoth Dublin fan, whose "dream" it was to have a racehorse.
It was as they drove up to trainer Paul Gilligan in Galway a number of years ago to pay him for the horse that they got the sad news that his father was unwell. Then, three days later, he died.
The kitchen fitter, whose work has dried up in the recession, said he was doubly chuffed after they backed the 33-1 horse. They'll be celebrating in Gaffney's Pub in Fairview in Dublin when they return.