RUBY WALSH (pictured) is confident Hurricane Fly's advancing years were not to blame for his disappointing effort in last week's Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Willie Mullins' record-breaking 10-year-old was aiming to secure a third victory in the showpiece event on the opening day of the Festival but weakened tamely from the home turn to finish fourth behind younger guns Jezki, My Tent Or Yours and the unlucky The New One.
Asked whether age was catching up with the brilliant hurdler, Walsh said: "People are going to say that and that's the obvious answer, but I honestly don't think so.
"Hurricane Fly did something he has never done in the past, which was stop.
"If he had kept going off the bend and gone to the last with Jezki and was run out of it to finish third, you would say age has caught up with him, but he stopped, which is so uncharacteristic of him. For whatever reason, I don't know, but he did (stop). Maybe I'm biased, but I'd be willing to forgive him. I'm sure if he's happy and well, he'll go on to Punchestown."
The other significant reverse during the week for Walsh was that of Annie Power, who lost her unbeaten record at the hands of More Of That in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. Plenty believe Annie Power did not truly stay the three-mile distance on her first attempt at the trip, but Walsh does not agree and feels the occasion may have got to the highly-regarded mare. He said: "I didn't think there was a gelding that could give Annie Power 7lb, but on the day More Of That did and beat her well on the day.
"But I suppose going to Cheltenham you know as well as physically needing the best horse, mentally you do as well, and Annie Power's temperament just wasn't right for the occasion.
"She got too worked up and ran too keen. I never got her switched off. You need to conserve your energy in those kind of races and she just didn't do that. There is no doubt she stayed."
Having suffered injury in the JCB Triumph Hurdle on Friday, Walsh missed the ride on the Mullins-trained On His Own in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The 10-year-old ran fantastically in the hands of David Casey, going down by just a head to Lord Windermere in a thriller.
After a lengthy enquiry, the stewards deemed the interference suffered by On His Own at the hands of Lord Windermere had not affected the result, but Walsh is struggling to understand the logic behind the decision.
He said: "He was beaten a short head and they found Davy Russell (Lord Windermere's jockey) guilty of careless riding. Without seeing it (the replay), if someone is found guilty of careless riding and the result is a short head, it has to have improved your position. I'm sorry, but it doesn't make sense how it hasn't. Maybe that's too simplistic."
Walsh will see a specialist later this week to find out how long he is likely to be out of action for following his nasty fall which left him with a fractured arm and a dislocated his shoulder
Asked whether he will be out for the remainder of the National Hunt season, Walsh said: "I don't know. I would have thought so, but I'll know more when I see the specialist later in the week.
"I need to wait for the swelling to go down before they can get a clearer picture."