Neptune Collonges' nail-biting triumph in the Aintree Grand National provided Daryl Jacob with an exhilarating reward for resisting the allure of a career in construction.
In the summer of 2006, three years after relocating to England on the advice of Kieran Kelly -- his then housemate at Dessie Hughes', who suffered a fatal fall at Kilbeggan in 2003 -- a disillusioned Jacob toyed with the idea of returning home to begin an apprenticeship in the building trade.
The son of a Wexford fisherman, his itchy feet were calmed by his good friend Noel Fehily, and the 28-year-old's lot soon improved.
He enjoyed three Grade One successes on forays home aboard The Listener, forged a fruitful association with the up-and-coming Nick Williams and then became number two to Ruby Walsh at Paul Nicholls' stable last summer.
Fehily, who had deputised so brilliantly for Walsh the previous winter, was laid low following surgery on a problematic wrist, leaving the door open for Jacob, who had won the Triumph Hurdle for Nicholls on Zarkandar that March.
Now, having gifted the winning Champion Hurdle ride on Rock On Ruby to Fehily in favour of Zarkandar at Cheltenham last month, Jacob has had his moment in the limelight.
Sadly, Fehily's miserable run of injuries resurfaced in the National. Unseated from State Of Play at the fifth, he broke a leg in three places, and underwent surgery yesterday morning.
Walsh missed the race after a horrendous fall from Zarkandar in the Aintree Hurdle. Had he elected to ride Neptunes Collonges, he would doubtless be a lot sorer now.
Any rueful emotion at passing up a Grand National winner and a Champion Hurdle winner in the space of a month will have been eased by the sight of his sister Katie creating a little bit of history in finishing third on their father Ted's Seabass. If a female jockey is to win a National anytime soon, surely either Walsh or Nina Carberry -- who failed to complete the course for a first time in four attempts when bumped out of Organisedconfusion's saddle at the Canal Turn first time -- will be the one to do it.
Of course, the big losers on Saturday were Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus, whose Synchronised was killed and Sunnyhillboy denied in such cruel fashion.
Having been aboard Alverton when he suffered an identical fate to Synchronised in 1979, O'Neill knew the risk involved in running a Gold Cup winner in the National, but deemed it acceptable.
Cork-born Richie McClernon pushed Sunnyhillboy clear at the Elbow, but was reluctant to hit the horse after he edged left on the only two occasions that he did strike him. While Jacob gave Neptune Collonges the full treatment, it's impossible to know whether or not Sunnyhillboy would have held on if McLernon had been able to ride more aggressively.
Having watched Clan Royal get overhauled by Amberleigh House in 2004 after Liam Cooper dropped his whip before losing vital ground when forgetting to ride towards the Elbow, it was the second time that O'Neill and McManus saw a National snatched from them at the death.
In the event that McLernon might need consolation of any kind, it's worth recalling that Nicholls first pledged his intention to support Jacob after he deemed his ride on Maljimar to be the subject of unfair criticism when AP McCoy famously collared him on Wichita Lineman at Cheltenham in 2009. There is light at the end of every tunnel.
Jockeys in the wars
Apart from Fehily and Walsh, Davy Russell and Brian Hughes were also injured at Aintree.
Hughes suffered a suspected fracture to his cheekbone when parting company with Viking Blond at the first fence in the National, while Russell joined Walsh in sitting out his Tramore rides yesterday after picking up a knee injury when Alfa Beat fell at the seventh.
Both Russell and Walsh, who tweeted that he felt like he "had been hit by a steam train", are expected to resume riding this week.
Ted Walsh's gallant Seabass, the subject of a morning gamble that saw him sent off the 8/1 joint-favourite with the Barry Geraghty-ridden Shakalakaboomboom (ninth), led home the Irish contingent in the Grand National under the trainer's daughter Katie.
Dessie Hughes' In Compliance (13th last year) finished fifth for Niall Madden, while Tharawaat took eighth for Gordon Elliott and Brian O'Connell. The Midnight Club, sixth last year, fared best of Willie Mullins' trio in 11th, with the remaining 11 raiders failing to complete the course.
Ever see a soccer player get touched go down like he's been shot? Then you see Ruby Walsh getting out from under a horse & think #menandboys @RTECountryWide -- In the weekend that was, a pertinent observation from an unlikely source acknowledges Walsh's ability to walk away after Zarkander landed on top of him at Aintree.
Please can the world stop talking such rubbish about the Grand National @osbornejamie -- Jamie Osborne, who rode the popular grey Suny Bay to finish second in the 1997 National, pleads for some sanity.
52 Runners that Paul Nicholls had in the National prior to Neptune Collonges delivering him a debut win.
2 JP McManus-owned Cheltenham Festival winners that suffered fatal injuries on their next start, Bellvano's loss at Fairyhouse preceding Synchronised's ill-fortune.