Saturday 21 September 2019

Walsh and legends return to saddle to help 'special person' Smullen

Champion jockeys Ruby Walsh, AP McCoy, Paul Carberry, Charlie Swan and Joseph O'Brien are pictured ahead of riding in the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh on Sunday week. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Champion jockeys Ruby Walsh, AP McCoy, Paul Carberry, Charlie Swan and Joseph O'Brien are pictured ahead of riding in the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland at the Curragh on Sunday week. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

There was only one way that Ruby Walsh was going to make any kind of a comeback after bringing down the curtain on his glittering riding career in May and it took Pat Smullen to get him back in the saddle.

When the call came to ride against a cast of legends in the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland on Sunday week, Walsh was eager to help as "it's a special cause for a special person in my life".

AP McCoy, Charlie Swan, Kieren Fallon and Joseph O'Brien are among the other pilots taking part on day two of Irish Champions Weekend with all funds raised going to Cancer Trials Ireland, the leading cancer research trials organisation.

Cancer Trials Ireland has two pancreatic trials ready to start - one is a trial on a new drug and another in radiotherapy - and with Smullen currently undergoing his second chemotherapy treatment, Walsh urges people to support.

"When people were asked, they were sold straight away. This is what Pat wanted and he wants the money to be raised. Whatever way you look at the world and everything you can do, there are still certain things which can't be fixed," Walsh said.

"It makes you wonder what way the world is working at times. But for anybody that has gone to Galway and followed Pat Smullen or backed him in the Derby, when you think of all the great things that he has done as a jockey, he's basically asking you to give him a hand. Pancreatic research will be the real winner."

It will be Walsh's first time to ride on a racecourse since sailing off into the sunset following Kemboy's victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup and the 40-year-old has few pangs of regret over his shock decision.

"It has kicked in. I was ready for retirement. I was in Galway and I didn't miss being out there, I actually was kind of surprised myself how little I missed it but things are going well. I've also realised now that I actually have to work for a living," the Kildare native said.

Given that he is still involved with Willie Mullins at least three days a week, Walsh knows the goings on in Closutton inside out and is excited by the "huge array of talent" at the champion trainer's disposal when the jumps season kicks into gear.

While Michael O'Leary announced that Gigginstown House Stud will phase out its significant operation over the next five years, Walsh reckons the decline will be quite sharp and he expects them to drift from the headlines in "the next two years".

"When you stop restocking, stock runs out quick. It's not long before there's only a certain amount left and I don't think they're particularly well armed at the minute with a high number of high quality horses," he said.

Quality is not a problem for Mullins with Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo and Kemboy among his ranks while last year's exciting novice chaser Chacun Pour Soi is being tipped for great things, although Walsh urges caution.

"I'm wary of stepping from novice into open company and beating good novices at the end of the season at Punchestown as a fresh horse is fine but when you step out now with Altior and Cyrname, there's another 10 or 12lbs that you need to find."

As for the horse he would like to ride most this year if he were still in the saddle, Walsh nominates Saldier (currently 20/1) as a live outsider in the Champion Hurdle market.

Irish Independent

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