Good ground can bring out the best in Riltree

THIS is a big weekend for Paul Townend and Davy Russell, as they go head-to-head at Sligo tomorrow in their bid to become champion jockey for the first time.

The pair have enjoyed terrific seasons and, though suffering injury problems along the way, have enjoyed a relatively good run.

I think Sligo, and then Down Royal and Limerick on Monday, will go a fair way towards deciding who is going to be champion.

I know Punchestown comes up then for five days, but that is an entirely different animal, compared to run-of-the-mill meetings.

It is the ordinary meetings which ultimately decide championships.You can often ride a treble or double at them. But if you manage one a day at Punchestown, which really should be the extent of your expectation, that will only come to five winners in total. Anyway, I wish the two lads well and may the best man win.

Before getting onto Sligo could I first tell you about something I have been involved in for a while? I have been working with a company called Point-Two on an inflatable back-protector.

If watching Ballinrobe on Wednesday, you will have seen Shay Barry take a nasty fall and then get badly kicked by a horse coming from behind.

Shay had to be very sore afterwards and I’m certain the inflatable back-protector would have been a big help in such a case.

Essentially, it is an air-bag that is attached onto the back protector. I was suppose to trial it through the winter, but couldn’t due to injury, and John Cullen and Ken Whelan did so instead.

I believe this is a major step forward and has the potential to help jockeys down the line. It should be a great help to point-to-point riders also, who take more falls than we do.

Right, let’s discuss Sligo, where I have only two rides, with Paul Townend teaming up with Willie Mullins’ charges.

I kick away with High Cian for Tony Martin in the first, a maiden hurdle. I know he’s been disappointing and a lot of punters, I suppose, won’t want to know about him.

Call me an eternal optimist if you want, but I actually think he has a great chance and I’ll tell you why.

His last two runs have been at Cork and that is a track which did not play to his strengths at all. Stepping up a couple of furlongs in trip, over the stiffest course in Ireland, will be much more his cup of tea.

The last five furlongs at Sligo are all against the hill and made for High Cian. Don’t say you weren’t told.

My other ride is on Lend A Hand Son for Michael Hourigan in a novice hurdle. Michael asked me to go to Ballinrobe on Wednesday for False Economy and said he thought he would win. Michael was right.

I was hardly down off False Economy when he asked if I’d head to Sligo for this horse, again on the basis he thinks it has a great chance. I was only too happy to agree.

Willie runs Apt Manor in the contest and, don’t get me wrong, if Paul was a dozen winners clear in the championship then I’d be on her.

But she is returning from a break, while Lend A Hand Son ran a nice sort of the race behind Leblon on the flat at Clonmel recentty.

A word about two other horses trained by Willie, Maid From Milan and Riltree. Maid From Milan is in a conditions hurdle and is two from two, taking a bumper at Downpatrick and a maiden hurdle at Tramore.

She has been off since April, but is easy to get fit, is in cracking order and will love the quick ground.

Riltree is just like Sicilian Secret, who finally got it right for me at Fairyhouse last Sunday.

She is working particularly well right now, but Paul Townend said to me the other day that she always flies in her homework.

Last week I told you the key to Sicilian Secret was almost certainly getting some good ground and I’ve a feeling it is going to be the same story with Riltree in the maiden hurdle for mares.

On Thursday morning at Willie’s I rode Quel Esprit, Quevega and So Young and they are in good shape for Punchestown next week.

I’d imagine Willie will have a mountain of runners, if recent mornings are anything to go by. I’d say we rode out 80 of them on Thursday and last Tuesday and expect more of the same this morning.

A lot of them are getting ready for Punchestown, but there are also plenty of horses coming back in for the summer.

Ruby’s rant

Fairyhouse did an unbelievable job of watering the ground for their Grand National meeting and the surface was totally safe for horses and riders.

I would, however, take issue with the going descriptions, which were given as good on all three days.

The ground was good to yielding for the first two and definitely yielding on Tuesday. It is very, very important for punters, and the form book, that these are accurate.

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