Walsh hopeful of quick return but Carberry still sidelined
Ruby Walsh could ride at the Punchestown Festival just over two weeks after fracturing his wrist at Aintree, but Paul Carberry is resigned to another couple of months on the bench as his 42-year-old body struggles to recover from a broken leg that he incurred last September.
Walsh, who leads Bryan Cooper 102-92 as he strives to secure an 11th jockeys' title, took successive falls at the Liverpool track on Friday.
After Blood Cotil's exit in the Topham Chase, he sat out his remaining rides, and it emerged that he had sustained a hairline fracture to his wrist, ruling him out of a fourth Grand National since 2010.
While Walsh didn't miss much in the National as Sir Des Champs gave his replacement Nina Carberry a hairy ride before dramatically exiting at The Chair, watching Paul Townend partner Yorkhill and Douvan to a Grade One brace will have compounded his pain.
However, both of Willie Mullins' equine superstars could turn up at the five-day Kildare finale that begins on April 26, and Walsh's sister and agent Jennifer McCarthy is optimistic that the sport's most accomplished rider will be fit enough to report for duty.
"The surgeon was cautiously optimistic that he'll be back in time for Punchestown," she reported yesterday. "It's looking good."
Walsh will turn 37 in a month's time. If he does make Punchestown, it would be safe to conclude that the ageing process isn't yet hampering his healing process, but his older colleague Carberry feels that it is having an impact on the pace of his body's recuperation.
It is seven months since he fractured his left femur in a Listowel fall from Rich Coast, and he underwent further surgery in the new year after cracking his steel reinforcements in a fall at home.
"I will be looking at another two months off anyway," Carberry suggested, confirming that he hopes to be back in competitive action in time for the Galway races.
"The leg is still a bit sore at the moment. I am going to see my surgeon Dr Paddy Kenny on Friday morning for a check-up, so I will see what he says."
"The fall I got at home was a simple fall, but the way I twisted, where the screw went into the pin, it cracked along there. It was obviously still weak.
"It was four months after the fall so it should have been strong enough, but it wasn't, so I had to have a different rod put in. Obviously my body is recovering a bit slower than it used to, which is to be expected, I suppose."
Champion jockey in 2002 and 2003, Carberry is widely recognised as one of the sport's most gifted and stylish practitioners. Despite being in his 43rd year, he is determined to defy time and physical adversity to resume his role as jump racing's very own Peter Pan.
"I'm hoping it will be all right with time," he said. "We'll see what the surgeon says on Friday and keep the fingers crossed, but I have every intention of carrying on riding."
A year ago, Carberry landed the Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup at Punchestown on Don Cossack.
Gordon Elliott's charge has since gone on to achieve Gold Cup glory by capitalising on Cue Card's exit to triumph at Cheltenham. Cue Card made amends in style at Aintree and a definitive rematch looks on for Punchestown, where Vautour, which crashed under Walsh in Friday's Melling Chase, could also be in opposition.
"It will be interesting," Carberry mused excitedly. "I thought Cue Card definitely took the leaders on too early at Cheltenham. He should have been able to sit behind them going to that fence, because the two in front (Don Cossack and Djakadam) were going to stay anyway.
"In fairness, the way that Cue Card won in Liverpool, he kept going well, so you wouldn't know what might have happened. It's hard to call. It was going to be very close at Kempton (when Don Cossack fell two-out in the King George in which Cue Card foiled Vautour), but I thought Don Cossack might have won that day, because he was only getting going. He is a proper horse and I would probably stick with him."
Elliott, who is sending his Albert Bartlett runner-up Fagan to Perth next week, has entered his Coral Cup winner Diamond King in the Ladbrokes Stayers Hurdle and the Betdaq Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.
However, he is also considering a Listed race at Sandown on Saturday week.
"The owners are keen on Punchestown and the prize money is so good I'd be delighted if he finished second or third," Elliott said of the dilemma.