Ruby ready to return with Townend set for Clonmel
Things look to be falling into place for Willie Mullins on the jockey front with the champion trainer expecting Ruby Walsh to ride competitively before the Cheltenham Festival as he closes in on a return to the saddle.
Walsh - the most successful jockey in Festival history with 56 winners - suffered a broken leg from a fall in November but Mullins has no worries about the 38-year-old's fitness having watched him closely in Closutton.
"The other morning one of my horses got loose, Stormy Ireland, and he took off like Usain Bolt up the gallops so he's fit enough and he's well able to gallop. He's doing a lot of work in the gym and he looks very fit," Mullins said.
"He's very happy in himself that everything is going to plan. He is riding out at home, he hasn't ridden out here yet, he says I work him too hard when he does come here. I imagine he'll ride before Cheltenham, I like him going to Cheltenham fresh but maybe not that fresh."
Understudy There's more good news with understudy Paul Townend riding out yesterday for the first time since his shuddering fall on Killultagh Vic in the Irish Gold Cup and could feature at Clonmel on Thursday after a lay-off due to an ankle injury.
Mullins also revealed that Arkle Chase favourite Footpad (as short as evens) could be aimed at the Gold Cup in future after describing the six-year-old as an "athletic and natural jumper who stays". Vroum Vroum Mag (7/1) was also reported to be in "great shape" for the Mares' Hurdle while the "top class" Laurina (6/5 favourite) is primed for the Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
Meanwhile, Un De Sceaux's bid for back-to-back Ryanair Chases has been made easier with the news that Colin Tizzard's Fox Norton is out for the season.