Ruby seeks Silvi' lining

Niall Cronin

There is no question that Ruby Walsh has two of the best jobs in his profession. Number one jockey to Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins and British champion Paul Nicholls means that each season he has an array of talent at his disposal.

Most Thursdays Walsh will be in Ireland, usually in Thurles or Clonmel, and he would spend some of the rest of his week engaged for Nicholls in England either schooling or riding in races.

With limited exceptions, Saturday is the day that Nicholls gets 'first dibs' on Walsh, with Sunday usually being the big day of Irish action where the Kildare rider will sit on Mullins' impressive string.

This weekend is one of the rare occasions when today's Irish racing overshadows tomorrow and Walsh would appreciate the use of a teleporter or a cloning device to be at both Leopardstown and Newbury.

At Newbury today, Walsh has a full book of seven rides. A bet on all seven to be placed wouldn't provide you with a retirement package of any kind, and if he bangs in three or four winners it wouldn't be anything that he won't have hoped for as he flew out of Dublin airport.


As he returns to the Newbury weighroom after each race though, he'll surely be looking to catch a glimpse of At The Races and see how his other interests are getting on.

At Leopardstown, Paul Townend will be again be stepping in as deputy.

A very able one at that.

Nothing separates Diakali and Blood Cotil on ratings in the first but Townend is on Diakali and he would appear to lead Mullins' charge on the Triumph Hurdle.

Walsh is also missing out on last year's Champion Bumper winner, Champagne Fever, who certainly has a bit to prove if he's going to come into Walsh's reckoning for Cheltenham, but if all his issues are resolved that could just happen.

Boston Bob will have just his second start over fences but has run well around Cheltenham and it will be interesting to see how he fares out ahead of a possible tilt at the RSA Chase or the Jewson.

And of course Quel Esprit, last year's Hennessy Gold Cup winner, has also been picked up by Townend, although the pair seem to have their hands full in that race which is dominated by Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs.

It's a fair book of rides to be leaving behind but Walsh has good reasons for doing so. Silviniaco Conti would be his most likely ride in the Gold Cup at present and he will put his credentials on the line for that race when pitching up in the Denman Chase. The ever-improving seven-year-old triumphed at Haydock back in November and has been given a lengthy break by Nicholls after that to have him fresh for Gold Cup day. This is his prep and he'll surely come on for the run, but to be winning a Gold Cup he should still be winning today and it's hard to see what will beat him.

The other big mount Walsh can look forward to is that of Unioniste, a five-year-old who has earned a lot of plaudits in a short time with Nicholls.

The grey has won two of his three starts since joining from France and was extremely impressive off a generous mark at Cheltenham last time, so he too will be putting RSA and Jewson claims to the test.

Paul Nicholls trains Far West, who is the second favourite of the Triumph Hurdle going into today's action.

Walsh not getting the chance to compare him with Diakali in good company is something that will frustrate the rider as he tries to make decisions to what could be the difference between him riding a Cheltenham Festival winner or not.

He would like to make similar comparisons regarding Boston Bob for the novice chasers and Champagne Fever for the novice hurdles.

But they are the perils of having the two best jobs in his profession.

He won't be looking to change any time soon.