Saturday 17 March 2018

Mark Walsh to ride Champion Hurdle favourite Yanworth

Barry Geraghty riding Yanworth to victory – with the Meath rider out injured, Mark Walsh will take the reins on the JP McManus-owned chestnut at Cheltenham. Photo: Getty
Barry Geraghty riding Yanworth to victory – with the Meath rider out injured, Mark Walsh will take the reins on the JP McManus-owned chestnut at Cheltenham. Photo: Getty

Johnny Ward

Mark Walsh, who has never ridden a Cheltenham Festival winner, will be aboard Champion Hurdle favourite Yanworth on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Clane, Co Kildare rider is second jockey to Barry Geraghty for JP McManus and, with Geraghty sidelined through injury, Walsh has been afforded the responsibility to achieve the biggest win of his career next Tuesday.

Walsh (30) is recognised as one of the best jockeys in Ireland, but his profile is much lower in Britain.

He is also to ride Yanworth's Alan King-trained stablemate Uxizandre, which will be defending his Ryanair Chase crown on Thursday week.

"Mark Walsh is going to come over and sit on Yanworth and Uxizandre, probably on Thursday, and the plan is that he'll ride both at Cheltenham," said King.

"I don't know him at all but he's a very good rider. I've been very happy with both horses since their last runs. Everything has gone well."

Yanworth is unbeaten in three starts this season, winning the Coral Hurdle at Ascot, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

There was speculation that Richard Johnson, Wayne Hutchinson or Aidan Coleman could ride the horse.

Coleman will partner My Tent Or Yours in the race and Minella Rocco in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, in which Walsh will steer More Of That.

Noel Fehily will ride Buveur D'Air in the Champion Hurdle and Unowhatimeanharry in the Sun Bet Stayers' Hurdle, in which McManus also runs Jezki, which Walsh is to ride.

Tombstone has handicap options but, according to Gigginstown's racing manager Eddie O'Leary, he is "more likely but not definitely" going for the Champion Hurdle. If he does, Jack Kennedy is set to get the leg up.

Ruby Walsh is liable to steer Limini in the race, assuming connections supplement her tomorrow - dependent on how she works this morning.


However, it is Yorkhill which the legendary rider feels is his nap of the Festival in the JLT Novice Chase.

"He could even develop into a Gold Cup horse - I just think he's a very, very good racehorse," said Walsh, though his schooling session on Sunday at Leopardstown earned mixed reviews.

The Tony Martin-trained pair, Tudor City and Golden Spear, are the only Irish possibles in Saturday's Matchbook Imperial Cup at Sandown.

They were second and third respectively in the Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Peace And Co has not been entered for the race and will head straight for the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.

Only Fools And Horses fans were in clover at Wolverhampton yesterday, when Derek Duval came home to beat Trotter in the 3.10. In the next event, Lacan gave Fran Berry his first winner since returning from injury, scoring for boss Ralph Beckett at 11/8.

Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh is to meet the Agriculture Committee today arising from his controversial reappointment for a third term last year.

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