Ruby now hunting winners from New Jersey to Mallow
RUBY Walsh had only ridden once in the United States before, but you wouldn't have guessed it on Saturday as he guided the ex-Irish Rawnaq to victory in the American Grand National in New Jersey.
It was, incredibly, the sixth National that the legendary Kill rider has succeeded in, notwithstanding ones with provincial monikers. He has also scored in the big one at Aintree and the Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Australian versions.
If it seemed a somewhat unusual place for Ruby to be on Saturday, the €350,000 purse rendered it a fairly obvious move, even if he intended to be back in Cork yesterday. And Rawnaq, which was bought for just 3,500gns in 2010 by Kevin Smith before being switched to the US, is now in line for a staggering bonus.
Having won the Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle in Nashville in May, he gets a $500,000 bonus if he wins this season's World Hurdle, something firmly at the top of his connections' agenda.
Walsh said: "I didn't need to be asked twice. I thought he was a really good ride and I thought he was the best steeplechase horse in America.
"Looking at the two British horses running, I felt Rawnaq would be able to run to a better level than them. It was a no-brainer to come over and it's a huge purse. I don't know any other jumps race this weekend worth this much money."
Walsh struck with an excellent double at Mallow yesterday, as The Fitz Lady took the handicap hurdle at 10/1 and New Kid In Town landed the novice chase at 9/4.
Reflecting on the weekend, he said: "I landed early this morning, dropped my wife Gillian home and headed here."
Former Kildare midfielder Willie McCreery's superb campaign continued at Naas, where Childhood landed the feature Birdcatcher at 10/1 under Wayne Lordan. The Listed Bluebell Stakes went to Toe The Line. Afterwards, 79-year-old John Kiely was asked about his other stable star, Carlingford Lough.
"He's in good form, but, like us all, he's getting that bit older," laughed Kiely. "I rode him out yesterday morning. He's the type of horse that you get up for to ride out."