RUBY Walsh already had Scottish, English, Irish and Welsh Nationals to his name, and yesterday the 36-year-old jockey added the Australian version to his glittering CV by steering Bashboy to victory at Ballarat racecourse.
Trainer Ciaron Maher booked Walsh for the mount on his 12-year-old after regular rider Steve Pateman was ruled out through suspension. And the Irishman duly helped make history on his first working trip to the country, guiding Bashboy to an unprecedented third success in Australia’s Grand National Steeplechase.
Bashboy was saddled with 11st 9lb as he tried to follow up his two previous victories in the extended two-mile-six-furlong race and Walsh took up a prominent early position.
Turning for home, Thubiaan was the only challenger to Bashboy and that rival appeared to have the edge until making a mistake at the penultimate obstacle. Despite Walsh’s mount also making a minor error, he was able to seize the initiative on Bashboy and the veteran responded to the rider’s every urging to come home a half-length winner.
“What a horse,” Walsh said afterwards. “I thought I still had a little bit left. I knew I was giving lots of weight away, but I was jumping so good I couldn’t wait to get to the two fences.
“The horse on my inside nearly fell at the second last and I nearly fell off but when I got him back on an even keel, he started rallying going to the last and I knew I had a good show.
“It’s a pleasure to ride such a wonderful horse.”
Walsh has twice won the English Grand National at Aintree – on Papillon in 2000 and Hedgehunter five years later – as well as the feature Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan.
His victory in the Scottish Grand National came in 2002 on Take Control.
“It’s brilliant to be here,” added the jockey of his trip Down Under. “As a jump jockey, you don’t get many opportunities to ply your trade abroad. I’m over the moon that I was asked to come, even happier that he won.”
Maher was thrilled to see Bashboy secure his place in the record books, particularly in the hands of Walsh. “I’m ecstatic – it’s unbelievable,” he said.
“Full credit to Ruby – he’s just a true superstar.
“Jumping the second-last I thought we were going to run second again, but the horse and him rallied.
“It was a true tough test and it was just a sensational effort.”