08 May 2019
It was about 5 years ago the word was out that Punchestown, that most glorious area of County Kildare that turns a shade of Mullins for a week this time of year, was looking for a new sponsor for its big handicap on the final day of the Festival.
A colleague piped up ‘why not ask Paracetamol- after all think how much business they get from you this week’. Cue laughter- though I do not recall seeing him at the Festival since!
But this wonderful Festival come end of term party is that sort of week. It began with the unveiling of a statue in memory of the great, late and hugely missed Racing Priest Father Sean Breen. Its horrible to think it is 10 years since we lost one of the great characters of Irish Racing. The statue has ‘The Breener’ holding a book- the Ecclesiastic brethren who attended Tuesdays unveiling insist it is The Good Book- others are suggesting the Gospel according to St Timeform.
Not even Timeform could have written the script for this years Festival when at just after 6.15pm on Wednesday the sport suffered a seismic shift when, to the surprise even of his closest of allies Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh exited stage left.
But the script just seemed perfect- the biggest race of the week, a Grade 1 secured and at his local track. In this job you sometimes have to trust people and now I know it- I think it is the first time in my life I have approached a senior jockey for an interview-in this case a reaction to Ruby’s bombshell to realise he had a full bucket of water in his hand. Thankfully ‘Soak the Walsh’ was the name of the game- they do things differently out here.
Racing now has to do it differently, without the man who booted home Kauto Star, Master Minded, Quevega, Hurricane Fly, Faugheen…the list goes on…and also found time to caddy for his great mate A P McCoy in a Charity event!
This has been another memorable week- well it will be until next year and its perhaps summed up by the relaxed mood of everyone. After Ruby retired his great accomplice Willie Mullins walked past another senior Irish Trainer.
His words? ‘There’s no chance of you going too I suppose’
And they all laughed.