Appeal falls on deaf ears but Ruby gets Hennessy reprieve
RUBY WALSH yesterday failed in his appeal to get a three-day ban for careless riding lifted, but his request to defer the second day, due to there being a Grade One race in Ireland that day, was successful.
It means that, although he will miss Newbury's 'Super Saturday' a week tomorrow, he will now be able to ride at Leopardstown's important Hennessy meeting a day later.
Walsh picked up the ban at Cheltenham last Saturday after Pearl Swan was placed second by the local stewards, who ruled that Walsh's mount had leaned on runner-up Grumeti after the last in the Triumph Hurdle Trial.
Paul Nicholls had already said that Daryl Jacob would probably ride Zarkandar, last year's Triumph winner, in his re-appearance in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury because of Walsh's commitment to the favourite Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle.
Walsh is likely to ride Quel Esprit for Willie Mullins in the Hennessy. There are also three other Grade One novice contests on the programme, so it is a hugely important fixture with Cheltenham just around the corner.
Walsh's appeal focused on his good record in terms of careless riding, the former Irish champion jockey telling the British Horseracing Authority's appeal panel in London: "The last time I was in front of the stewards for careless riding in the UK was when I received a severe caution on January 21, 2008. That's four years ago. I've had over 700 rides in the UK since and I think my record speaks for itself."
However, Walsh's words fell on deaf ears, with Charlie Warde-Alam, chairman of the panel, stating afterwards: "The panel found that Mr Walsh had allowed his horse to drift right handed from the half-furlong marker to shortly before the line, causing Mr (Wayne) Hutchinson, the rider of Grumeti, to be taken off his intended line. The panel dismissed the appeal and confirmed the three-day suspension."
Walsh, whose deposit was not refunded, expressed himself "very disappointed" with the decision, though he may have been cheered by Jonjo O'Neill's revelation that Synchronised might not travel for the Hennessy.
O'Neill's Lexus Chase winner is the only horse ahead of Quel Esprit in the ante-post betting for the three-miler.
"He proved (in the Lexus) that he is not a mudlark," the Cork-born trainer reported of the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old. "But he did put a lot into it and you can tell that now. He is taking his time to recover. He always does.
"I think the Hennessy is the ideal race for him rather than the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but if he is not right there is no point going. I am happy with him but not delighted, and he has to really excite me in the next week or so."
The entries were revealed yesterday for the four main novice hurdles at next month's Cheltenham Festival, with all the leading Irish-trained hopefuls put forward.
Jessica Harrington's Steps To Freedom, 10/1 favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, is one of 31 potential raiders in the opening-day two-miler.
Cash And Go, victorious in Grade One company at Leopardstown over Christmas, also features on the 91-strong list, as does Dermot Weld's Royal Bond Novice Hurdle runner-up Galileo's Choice, along with nine from the Willie Mullins stable.
Dessie Hughes' Cesarewitch winner Minsk, expected to debut over hurdles in a Grade One at Leopardstown next week, is in the Triumph, as is Mullins' Ut De Sivola.
The champion trainer's Boston Bob, so impressive at Leopardstown last Sunday, has been given the option of either the two-mile-five-furlong Neptune Investment Novices' Hurdle or the three-mile Albert Bartlett, while Noel Meade has put the Slaney Novice Hurdle winner Monksland in both the Supreme and the Neptune.
Speaking yesterday, Meade said of his unbeaten five-year-old, which is engaged in the Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 12: "I don't think he's going to run in the Deloitte, we're looking at going straight to Cheltenham."
Meanwhile, the prospects of the meeting scheduled for Fairyhouse tomorrow going ahead are improving.
The track was declared unfit for racing due to frost yesterday morning, but the situation was said to be much improved later in the day.