Ruby Walsh runs through his star-studded book of Cheltenham rides
From Getabird to Footpad and Un De Sceaux, Ruby Walsh, the most successful jockey in Cheltenham Festival history, has a stunning book of rides next week. Here he analyses some of his key chances and the choices he still has to make about what to partner
Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Getabird looked good to me at Punchestown. I've never ridden him on the track but I was standing down past the winning post at Punchestown and I liked the way he galloped through the line.
I suppose he's probably more similar to Champagne Fever rather than a Douvan or a Vautour, but he looks an exciting prospect with a favourite's chance. He's a good ride and you wouldn't be swapping him.
Racing Post Arkle
Footpad has been brilliant on his three runs thus far. I suppose people are entitled to think that Petit Mouchoir will improve off the back of his second behind Footpad at Leopardstown, but I think he'll have to improve a good bit to get by Footpad.
Saint Calvados looked good in Warwick as well. It'll be a small field but it looks a very good race.
Unibet Champion Hurdle
I'd much prefer to be sitting here with Faugheen having won the Christmas Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle and vying for favouritism with Buveur D'Air but obviously he's blown out the last twice.
His last run [Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown] was better than his Christmas run but that wasn't going to be hard. He has something to prove now and Buveur D'Air is going to be hard to beat.
His work was very good going to Leopardstown the last twice, his work is very good now but at the end of the day form is form. His form at the minute won't beat Buveur D'Air so he has to come back to his November form if he's going to do that. Maybe he will.
If he's the horse he was back in November he has a big shout, if he's the horse he was in Leopardstown the last twice, he's not going to beat Buveur D'Air. Only time will tell, I wish I knew the answer.
Faugheen would look the obvious one [to ride]. Maybe I should be looking at Wicklow Brave off the back of his win at Punchestown, but on Faugheen's performance in winning the Morgiana in November, he looks the one.
I still think Yorkhill is a hell of a horse. We just haven't managed to get it out of him this year, for whatever reason, but horses can do that sometimes.
They blow hot and cold – they're not cars that you can just turn on and off. But he's a horse with a huge amount of ability, there's no doubt.
He'll turn up when you least expect it. I'd just prefer if he didn't turn up and beat me in a Champion Hurdle. Willie seems to be leaning towards the Champion Hurdle with him.
The hood looked to have backfired on Melon at Leopardstown as he didn't race with the same enthusiasm as he usually does. I still think he'll need to improve on his novice and even his open hurdle form to win a Champion Hurdle but he has the age to improve and the scope is there.
Wicklow Brave did win a County Hurdle and won a Grade 1 at Punchestown in first-time blinkers. Would blinkers have the same effect on the second start? Who knows. I still think, when you look at it, it's hard to get off Faugheen to ride any one of those. That's the way I'd be looking at it anyway.
OLBG Mares' Hurdle
Vroum Vroum Mag is gone so that leaves Benie Des Dieux as the obvious one. We’ve Meri Devie and Pravalaguna in there as well but Apple’s Jade will be hard to beat.
La Bague Au Roi is a very good filly as well and she’ll ensure that it’s a very testing race. But Benie Des Dieux is unexposed and she’s only ever done what she’s been asked.
She’s a mare we like but she needs to improve to trouble Apple’s Jade. There’s no mares’ chase at Cheltenham so she’s running in the Mares’ Hurdle. You can’t be afraid of one horse so you have to have a go.
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
Douvan hasn’t run in 12 months, so do you ride Min over him? Min's had three runs this season and you could say he’s unbeaten over fences, even though he lost one in the stewards’ room?
Fences have improved Min, that’s for sure, but it’s hard to argue they haven’t improved Altior as well. Min is match-ready and Douvan has the back class.
I don’t know where I’m going to find my answer between now and Monday, but hopefully I will. It’s a difficult one, a toss of a coin.
Un De Sceaux is as honest as the day is long. I think the longevity that Willie has managed to get out of him is super.
His owners get great fun out of him as well. It’s going to be a different race this year. You might have Waiting Patiently in there, you will have Cue Card and you will have Balko Des Flos as well.
He’s a great horse to ride and I’m really looking forward to him. He’s a great ride to have.
Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle
I could ride Penhill, Bacardys, Augusta Kate or Let’s Dance. The shortest one in the betting is probably a 10-1 shot so it’s not going to be easy.
A lot of people think the Stayers’ is going to be a weak race but what will happen now is that we’ll end up having a huge field.
I think you’ll have 18 or 19 runners whereas when I was winning it on Big Bucks, you’d have seven or eight runners.
It’s very competitive. Supasundae has been very good and Yanworth is coming back over hurdles as well.
Penhill went to Cheltenham after a much different preparation last year and he’d been running all summer. He’d had a much tougher season and I think 3m hurdle races are the hardest on horses fitness-wise.
It’s really stamina-sapping and I think you need hard fitness in it, which might count against Penhill.
For me, what Sam Spinner has achieved at Ascot in the Long Walk Hurdle as a five-year-old, he can only be physically improving as the season goes on and I think he’ll be hard to beat. Ours have each-way chances.
JCB Triumph Hurdle
I could ride Sayo, Saldier, Stormy Ireland and Mr Adjudicator. On form, Mr Adjudicator is a Grade 1 winner and he’ll be hard to overlook.
It was a good performance by him to beat Farclas at Leopardstown. Apple’s Shakira and Redicean look very good. Apple’s Shakira stays very well and Triumph Hurdle winners usually do.
Stormy Ireland looked relentless when winning for us, Mr Adjudicator looked a sharpish kind of horse, Saldier could be anything and Sayo is in there as well.
I can’t rule any of them out and it’s going to be a hard call over which one I ride. On form, Mr Adjudicator is the one and the rest you’re just going on potential. I’ll have to have a sit on them all next week and see if one of them gives me a feel that the others don’t.
Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
Total Recall is the improver but can he improve enough to win a Gold Cup? I don’t know.
Killultagh Vic looked as though he was going to win the Irish Gold Cup but he fell at the last and he lacks experience while Bachasson is in there as well.
That leaves Djakadam, who I’ve always felt would win a Gold Cup, and having ridden him in the last three renewals of the race, if I desert him, he’ll surely go and bite me in the ass and win it this year.
He’ll be a hard horse to overlook. He ran better in this year’s Irish Gold Cup than he did in last year’s race.
I think this year’s Gold Cup will be run at a ferocious gallop. They’ll be strung out over Cleeve Hill and they’ll be finishing in intervals, which could set it up for something coming from off the pace, like a Lord Windermere or something.
I think, though, whatever gets by Might Bite – will win the Gold Cup.
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