Sunday 22 April 2018

I didn't need to ride before Cheltenham - Walsh

Jockey Ruby Walsh Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Jockey Ruby Walsh Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

It seems like an eternity since Ruby Walsh was in competitive action on the racecourse but despite making his return at Thurles today for one ride, the champion jockey admits he would have gladly waited until next week's Cheltenham Festival if possible.

More than three months were spent on the sidelines recuperating since a horrible fall at Punchestown in November but unlike many other sports, Walsh doesn't expect there to be any rustiness when he returns to the saddle.

"If I didn't have to ride at all I wouldn't, it wouldn't bother me. What difference is three rides going to make that none wouldn't have, I'm not going to ride 30 races," the 38-year-old said.

"It would be great to get back and get a feel for it but it's probably harder riding work than it is a race - multiple horses in an hour rather than one horse every half an hour. In terms of match fitness, the horse is the one that has to do all the running.

"The jockey is more of a tactician, a race is seven minutes at most. It's just mental sharpness and I suppose a fresh mind is as good as a stale mind, we'll find out. The last time I came back in I hadn't much riding done either."

Walsh returned from a similar injury break for the 2011 Festival and proceeded to score a treble on the opening day before being crowned the meeting's top jockey with five winners .

The Kildare pilot will have similar aspirations next week although he faces some difficult decisions as he hopes to add to his Festival tally of 56.

Question marks hang over Faugheen following an abysmal display over Christmas but despite his boss Willie Mullins also running stable-mates Yorkhill, Melon and Wicklow Brave in the Champion Hurdle, Walsh will keep faith with the 2015 victor in the hope that the real 'Machine' finds his spark again at the Cotswolds.

"His last run (Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown) was better than his Christmas run but that wasn't going to be hard. He has something to prove now and Buveur D'Air is going to be hard to beat. Willie hasn't said anything to me to say that Faugheen has come on since then," he said.

"His work was very good going to Leopardstown the last twice, his work is very good now but at the end of the day form is form. His form at the minute won't beat Buveur D'Air so he has to come back to his November form if he's going to do that.

"Maybe he will. If he's the horse he was in November he has a big shout, if he's the horse he was in Leopardstown the last twice, he's not going to beat Buveur D'Air. Only time will tell, I wish I knew the answer."

Walsh's sole ride today - Lareena in the thurles.ie Maiden Hurdle - gives him a good chance to score for Mullins.

"I'm going back to work, just excited to be back. Awayinthewest will be hard to beat but you have to start somewhere.

"Lareena is a handy little mare, hopefully she'll get around and I can move on to Leopardstown Friday and then Naas or Gowran on Saturday."

Irish Independent

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