Tuesday 23 July 2019

Fly in fine fettle as Ruby looks to open Festival with a bang

Hurricane Fly, with Ruby Walsh up, on the gallops at Cheltenham yesterday
Hurricane Fly, with Ruby Walsh up, on the gallops at Cheltenham yesterday
Ruby Walsh relaxes with with Hurricane Fly on the gallops at Cheltenham yesterday

Richard Forristal

The irrepressible Ruby Walsh, who stands in splendid isolation as the Cheltenham Festival's most successful rider with 38 wins, has another blue-chip book of rides as he goes in search of an incredible eighth leading rider's award in 11 years.

A top-priced 4/7 to again top the pile at the end of the week, Walsh combines to devastating effect in the Cotswolds with the champion trainer Willie Mullins. The insatiable Co Carlow-based maestro, a 4/9 shot to claim the Irish Independent leading trainer's gong for a third time since 2011, supplies each of Walsh's four rides this afternoon.

Vautour is first up in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle after Walsh eschewed stablemate Wicklow Brave.

Then it will be up to the heavyweight contenders, with Champagne Fever, Hurricane Fly and Quevega – already the winners of no fewer than nine Festival races between them – all charged with emulating their opening-day treble of last year.

"I rode Hurricane Fly this morning and he seemed in good form," Walsh said on the eve of the four-day extravaganza yesterday.

"We are happy with him and we have got him this far, so fingers crossed we can get him the rest of the way. They all look well and seem to have travelled well. The Festival is just different to any other meeting. I don't know if it's the crowd, the atmosphere or the expectation, but there is something magical about Cheltenham."

As ever, there was some last-minute drama, with Jason Maguire ruled out last night after he was left with a fractured sternum and a bleeding liver following a fall at Stratford.

JP McManus' racing manager Fran Berry has also described More Of That as "not a definite runner" in Thursday's Ladbrokes World Hurdle, with a decision due to be made today.

Irish Independent

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