From thrill to spill as Jane goes off rails
SOMETIMES you'd like to just press the rewind button.
Talented young jockey Jane Mangan (19), from Conna, near Fermoy, Co Cork, sat with her head in her hands. Just moments earlier she looked set to land the biggest win of her career.
The tens of thousands of racegoers thronging the stands on Cheltenham Gold Cup day looked on in disbelief as she went tumbling from her horse Oscar Delta.
Her dreams were left lying on the hard, wet turf as the 10-year-old horse, trained by her father Jimmy Mangan, suddenly jinked violently left into the rope rail and unseated its luckless partner.
Having her first ride at the festival, Mangan took the final fence four lengths ahead and looked nailed-on for a famous victory. Salsify, hot favourite to follow up last year's win in the race, was the chief beneficiary, but even his many backers were shocked almost into silence by the teenager's misfortune.
"He just thought we were going for another circuit, then he jinked, corrected himself and I wasn't ready. It felt like it was a dream when I hit the ground," she said as her ponytail hung out below her helmet. "Like a Disney film or something."
Yet, on a day when a pall loomed large over the Cheltenham track, the Mangans chose to be philosophical about the fall.
Those who went before her – the new leading light Bryan Cooper (20), plus the veterans of the turf Tony McCoy and Barry Geraghty – all had only one jockey on their mind.
The thoughts, well-wishes and prayers of the entire course were winging their way to injured jockey JT McNamara's bedside, as medics continued to treat his neck injuries.
"The only thing hurt is Jane's pride and I consoled her and told her to think of poor JT and his family. It could have been a lot worse," said the calm father, who bestowed a reassuring hand on the back of his young daughter. "She gave the horse a brilliant ride, I couldn't be more proud of her."
And he vowed: "We will be back."
It was a bittersweet Gold Cup win for Barry Geraghty aboard the 11-4 shot Bobs Worth.
Dedicating victory to JT, he said: "The second I crossed the line he was the first thing I thought of. You have to put it out of your head as you're racing but it is hard to be happy when he is in hospital."
Meanwhile, cameras whirred and heads turned 180 degrees as royal mother-in-waiting Kate Middleton, accompanied by her husband Prince William and dozens of friends, arrived just in time to cheer on the hotly contested Gold Cup.
Kate, who is five months pregnant, hid her bump under a blush-coloured Joseph coat, accessorised with a brown bow-trimmed Betty Boop hat from Lock & Co.
She had a betting slip in her hand and it is understood she and William cheered on Monbeg Dude – the race horse owned by rugby star Mike Tindall, who is married to William's cousin, Zara Phillips.
Like everyone else the duke and duchess of Cambridge were there to have fun – and at one stage one of their friends cheekily tweaked William's ear when the prince wasn't looking.
As the punters made a beeline for home, Irish trainers had set a new record with 14 festival winners.
see sport: Pages 51-55