Ruby Walsh brilliance again to the fore
RUBY Walsh's supreme riding ability was once again in evidence as he produced three magnificent performances in the saddle to complete an 81-1 hat-trick on the penultimate day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
As well as performing miracles to get Tidal Bay up close home in a brilliant renewal of the Lexus Chase, Walsh was at his imperious best aboard Back In Focus in a thrilling Topaz Novice Chase.
A 6-4 favourite after impressive displays at Listowel and Punchestown, Back In Focus jumped economically and travelled well, but was badly outpaced by his stable companion Aupcharlie leaving the back straight.
The latter cruised into a seemingly unassailable lead approaching the last fence, but Back In Focus' abundant stamina began to kick in on the level and Walsh lifted him home to beat fellow Willie Mullins runner Aupcharlie by a head.
Mullins said: "That's a fantastic win. We didn't think for one minute that Ruby would get back up until he did.
"He needs every inch of three miles and ground even softer that that. He's a real winter horse.
"As much as I'm delighted I'm sorry for Aupcharlie and Andrew Lynch. It was only his second run over fences and he's run a fantastic race.
"Back In Focus has the RSA written all over him. We'll look for a race over three miles for him.
"With Aupcharlie we could look for the Dr P.J Moriarty. We'll keep them apart. There is no point in them taking each other on again.
"Aupcharlie could be a horse for the Jewson. The way he jumped he could even come back to the minimum trip. They are two horses to look forward to."
Stan James cut Back In Focus to 12-1 from 16s for the RSA Chase, with Aupcharlie 10-1 from 16-1 for the Jewson Novices' Chase.
The first leg of the Walsh treble came in the Star Best For Racing Christmas Rated Hurdle as the Mullins-trained Supreme Carolina (5-1) answered his every call to get up and beat Persian Gayle by half a length.
"Ruby said he couldn't go with them so he sat and waited and it paid off. The ground might be a bit drier than they are calling it for her to win," said Mullins.
Monksland (11-4) gained his revenge over Mullins' Zaidpour with a cosy success in the woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle.
Noel Meade's five-year-old overturned a defeat in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse on this first attempt at three miles, beating his old rival by two and a half lengths in the hands of Paul Carberry.
Meade said: "Paul said he was struggling in the ground, but he just left him alone and gave him that half a furlong for a breather.
"He got a bit of air back into his lungs, gave him a bit of a break and was able to come home. It worked out really well for him.
"I didn't really know if he would stay (three miles), but sometimes with those horses that win bumpers you usually find they stay really well. He never lets you down."
Bookmaker reaction to his chance in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, which will be minus Big Buck's this season, was swift, with William Hill halving Monksland in price from 16-1 to 8-1.
Meade said: "The World Hurdle is open enough now, but we'll live for today. He's a very young horse, he's only five and he's very easy to train.
"He had a hard race today and might not run before Cheltenham."
Talbot Road (7-1) landed the Madigans Maiden Hurdle for Arthur Moore and Barry Cash.
Moore said: "We've always liked him from day one and he's the best young horse we've had for a while. He's our big hope for the future."
Flying Light (10-1) gained a narrow success in the Mongey Communications Novice Handicap Hurdle, while Charlie Swan's 7-4 joint-favourite Tangled Web landed the bumper under Nina Carberry.