Ruby ends exile with Wetherby win
RUBY Walsh ended his self-imposed exile from English racing with a winner yesterday, but wasn't slow about repeating his concerns over the new whip rules.
The Kildare native picked up a five-day suspension at Aintree last Saturday, and missed the meeting at Chepstow on Tuesday because of the threat of picking up a longer ban with another breach.
However, Paul Nicholls convinced him to head to Wetherby for the ride on Fistral Beach in the Listed bet365 Handicap Chase and the jockey was rewarded with a comfortable victory.
The well-supported 5/2 favourite travelled strongly throughout the two-and-a-half-mile feature and was left in a clear lead when market rival Persian Gates crashed out two fences from home.
Walsh only had to push his mount, owned by Graham Roach, out to the line to score by eight lengths from Araldur.
"It was a good prize, I thought it was worth coming over for and Paul did too," Walsh explained. "These are good races. I never said I wouldn't be coming for these sort of races.
"Likewise tomorrow, I've got some good rides, Poquelin and What A Friend, and then there is the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on Tuesday.
"It is the ordinary races I will have to weigh up and see what the story is. It's like a soccer player being on a yellow card and not wanting to miss the European Cup final."
Walsh has appealed against the ban he picked up at Aintree, with the hearing set to take place at British Horseracing Authority headquarters in London on Thursday.
"After Thursday, maybe things might change, I would not appeal if I didn't think I had a case," he said.
"The BHA say they are reviewing the rules ongoing, but ongoing is ongoing, I think they should speed it up, because the jumping season is getting going and there are good races coming up.
"We all make mistakes, I do every day, everybody does. But if you're not prepared to make mistakes, you'll never make a decision."
Champion trainer Nicholls was quick to support Walsh's comments and has urged racing's rulers to resolve the whip row.
"For the past 10 years, including from last weekend, I will tell you how many complaints I have received over the whip on the telephone, via email or in letters: none, although I have had plenty in support of Ruby this week, including the owners of Edgardo Sol.
"So, it was really sad to see Ruby so disillusioned with the sport after his superb willing ride on our Edgardo Sol, which saw him given a five-day whip ban for excellence. Let us hope someone, somewhere, can grab hold of the situation before any more talks of strikes are aired."
Elsewhere on the card, Alan King and Robert Thornton recorded a double, with 9/2 chance Secret Edge claiming Listed honours in the Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle.
Favourite Countrywide Flame appeared to be getting the better of the argument after the final flight, but Secret Edge came back to score by half a length.
King's assistant, Noel Williams, said: "I was delighted with that. We were glad the rain came, he does appreciate a bit of cut and may be better on softer ground -- it was a little bit quick for him when he ran at Chepstow."
Thornton was at his brilliant best when guiding Raya Star to a decisive victory in the bet365.com Handicap Hurdle.
The 100/30 favourite was switched off out the back of the field for much of the extended two-mile journey, but made stealthy headway at the top of the home straight and was produced perfectly to score by three and a half lengths from Golden Future.
Sue Smith's Crafti Bookie (4/1) showed a willing attitude under Henry Oliver to land the opening novices' hurdle.
Charlie Longsdon continued his excellent run of form as 11/8 shot Wide Receiver rewarded favourite backers in the handicap chase.
Meanwhile, last season's Irish Independent Arkle Trophy hero Captain Chris is to begin the new campaign in the Betfred Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on Tuesday. The Philip Hobbs-trained seven-year-old also won a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Punchestown.
Connections of the Diana Whateley-owned gelding are toying with the idea of stepping him up in trip as the winter develops.
"He's done really well over the summer and he's a lightly-raced horse who improved all last season," his regular rider Richard Johnson said.
"We're hoping there's still more to come and if he is cup class, he'll have to go well in a handicap at the start of the year.
"The idea is to get him up in trip through the season. Obviously the King George would be one of his options I suppose if he happens to win on Tuesday. We'll know a bit more after this race."