Ruby survives Cheltenham scare
With less than a week to go to the start of the 2011 Cheltenham Festival, Ruby Walsh was lucky to avoid serious injury when taking a heavy fall in the Tote Jackpot Maiden Hurdle at Naas yesterday.
The reigning champion jockey, who only returned from a four-month lay-off with a broken leg last Friday, was hard at work but closing on the leaders when the Tony Martin-trained King Of The Refs reached for the final flight and came down.
In what will have been a worrying few moments for Willie Mullins, the Paul Townend-ridden Boro Bee came straight over the top of King Of The Refs and also crashed out. Townend walked away unscathed, but Walsh received a cut under his left eye that required stitching and was stood down from his one remaining ride of the day by the racecourse doctor.
He had been due to ride Royal Reveille for his father Ted at Clonmel today, but his next engagement is now likely to be at Sandown on Saturday.
With Townend maintaining the links that he has built up with Mullins' horses in Walsh's absence, and the best of the Paul Nicholls team waiting in the wings for next week's Festival, Walsh has yet to record a winner since his return to the saddle.
He has a strong book of rides pencilled in for the Prestbury Park bonanza, however, and remains the 11/8 favourite to be crowned leading rider there for a sixth time.
Meanwhile, there were no surprises when the six-day entries were revealed yesterday for the Festival's opening programme, with 13 hopefuls standing their ground for both the Stan James Champion Hurdle and the Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Realt Dubh, the Noel Meade-trained winner of the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown in January, is the lowest priced of three potential raiders in the two-mile novices' championship at 9/1, while Mullins' Hurricane Fly will lead the charge for the two-mile hurdling crown on Tuesday's card.
Dunguib -- successful in the Champion Bumper in 2009 and third in last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle -- is also expected to line out in the Champion Hurdle, with Mullins-trained Thousand Stars the only other Irish entrant.
Mullins is likewise doubly represented in the Arkle. The Closutton-based champion trainer has left in Mikael D'Haguenet and Blazing Tempo, though Realt Dubh may yet be the sole Irish challenger to face the starter.
Blazing Tempo is more likely to turn out in the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase the same day, while Mikael D'Haguenet could go for the RSA Chase the following afternoon.
Closer to home, John 'Shark' Hanlon has confirmed that Hidden Cyclone will have his final outing of the season in a novice hurdle at Navan on Sunday.
A winner of five of his six career starts, Hidden Cyclone has also been allotted 12st 7lb in a handicap hurdle on the same card but Hanlon is confident that his classy six-year-old can sign off on a winning note in the novices' event.
"He won't go for the handicap with that kind of weight," Hanlon revealed. "I was disappointed with his jumping the last day at Thurles but he has schooled well since and I don't see any reason why he won't win again on Sunday. Win, lose or draw, he will be going out in the field after, and he will go straight chasing next season."