Sunday 18 February 2018

No Sandown return for Walsh but Punchestown a possibility

Ruby Walsh missed the Grand National after suffering a hairline fracture Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Ruby Walsh missed the Grand National after suffering a hairline fracture Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Ruby Walsh remains hopeful that he will be fit to resume riding at the Punchestown Festival on Tuesday, but he will not play any part in Willie Mullins' last-gasp bid for the British trainers' championship at Sandown on Saturday.

The 10-time champion jockey missed his fourth Grand National since 2010 when he suffered a hairline fracture to his wrist in a fall from Blood Cotil at Aintree on April 8.

Mullins has pitched star names such as Douvan, Vautour, Un De Sceaux and Vroum Vroum Mag into the mix for Sandown's grand finale as he chases down a historic cross-channel triumph.

However, Paul Townend is again likely to be the chief beneficiary, as Walsh has ruled himself out of a premature comeback.

"I don't go back to see the doctor until Saturday," he said last night. "I have had one target since Aintree and that is Punchestown, much and all as I'd love to be in Sandown.

"I'm an optimist, but my wrist feels good, so I'm hopeful that I will be okay for Tuesday. That would do me. They can't all run at Sandown, so there will still be plenty good horses to look forward to next week."

Walsh's 102 wins gave him a cushion of 10 over Bryan Cooper in the jockeys' title race, but Cooper has failed to make any inroads, missing a winner on Mullins's Master Of Verse at Fairyhouse yesterday to ride at Perth. As such, an 11th title for Walsh could already be assured.

Meanwhile, also at Fairyhouse, Ulster National hero Federici capitalised on a comparatively lenient timber figure in the Next Racing At Fairyhouse June 2nd Hurdle last night.

Enda Bolger's 13/8 favourite challenged Midnight Theatre three out and when pressed by Incitatum between the final couple of flights, stretched three and three-quarter lengths clear.

Bolger said: "I liked what I saw there. He could go to Punchestown on the Saturday for the race he was second to Josies Orders in last year, or else wait for Killarney."

Young Finnegan (5/2) has returned from a lengthy spell on the sidelines in fine form and broke through over the larger obstacles to take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase. Beaten at long odds-on on his previous outing, Robert Tyner's lightly-raced 10-year-old made amends with a three-and-a-half-length defeat of Vercingetorix, while Katnap had a belated first win in the Jumps Finale At Fairyhouse Rated Chase.

Irish Independent

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