Walsh back as Mullins eyes French test for Un De Sceaux
Ruby Walsh is poised to return to action at Auteuil on Saturday to partner Willie Mullins' unbeaten hurdler Un De Sceaux.
The exciting front-runner was one of a number of the champion trainer's heavyweight contingent that had yet to have its end-of-term target confirmed, but a second successive date in France is now his chosen destination instead of a joust with the top two-milers at Punchestown next week.
Walsh, who has been sidelined since dislocating his shoulder and fracturing his humerus in a fall from Abbyssial in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham five weeks ago, is expected to be fit to take the ride ahead of resuming a full schedule of high-profile activity at the Co Kildare festival on Tuesday.
Man of the moment Barry Geraghty stepped in for the champion jockey-elect when Un De Sceaux barely clung on to deny the fast-finishing Gemix in a desperate finish to a two-and-a-half-mile Grade Three at Auteuil on March 29. The Edward O'Connell-owned six-year-old set a ferocious gallop on that occasion, leaving many to conclude a return to two miles was imminent.
However, Saturday's Grade Two is over the same trip, and Gemix is again among six possible rivals. Electing to travel with Un De Sceaux, which has yet to be toppled in eight starts, eliminates one of many enviable dilemmas that Mullins has to resolve for next week's five-day season finale.
The Carlow-based maestro has reaffirmed that no decision has been made on which race Annie Power will run in, although he has hinted that she might be suited by less than three miles, following her gallant defeat to More Of That in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Annie Power is entered in the Ladbrokes-sponsored equivalent at Punchestown, but the mares' Grade One over two-and-a-quarter miles and the Racing Post Champion Hurdle over two miles are other options.
Her record-breaking stablemates Hurricane Fly and Quevega are expected to bid to extend their winning sequences to five in the Champion and World Hurdles respectively. "She ran into a cracker, I'd say," Mullins said magnanimously of Annie Power's Cotwolds conqueror.
"We probably ran a little bit free, which is not ideal for a three-mile horse. We won't make any decision until we have to. I think she can go any trip. We would probably ride her a bit different over three miles. Her method of racing probably suggests a shorter trip than three might be better."
Tipperary-born Yorkshire handler John Queen has said Cockney Sparrow, fifth to Quevega at Cheltenham prior to taking the scalp of Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, is an intended starter in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF-sponsored mares' Grade One.
Alan King has also clarified that his stylish Aintree victor Balder Succes will be kept to novice company for a tilt at the Ryanair Novice Chase on Thursday.
The track at Punchestown is reported to be in excellent condition, with racing manager Richie Galway describing it as being on the slow side of good. "By the time we get to the weekend the ground will be a bit slower which will leave us in a good position for next week," he said.