Onwards and upwards with Vautour in opener

Ruby Walsh reflects on Tuesday’s treble and Wednesday’s woes at Cheltenham.

After the high of Tuesday’s treble, it was disappointing to draw a blank yesterday, but, realistically, I had only two chances. Hopefully, I can get back to winning ways this afternoon, and my best chance comes in the first race, the JLT Novices’ Chase, aboard Vautour.

He’s in great nick. We’ve been very happy with him recently. His work since his win at Leopardstown in January has been very good — it’s kept on improving, so much so that I think he’s very close to the horse he was when he skated clear to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting last year.

Of course, it’s a competitive race, with the likes of Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido in there, along with the big British hope, Ptit Zig.

Paul (Nicholls) had a great day yesterday and his horses have to be respected, but I’m a huge Vautour fan and am more than hopeful. Willie’s Valseur Lido is also in great shape, but he’d probably be a bit better over further.

I’m on Ballycasey in the Ryanair, but he’s hard to assess. He was very disappointing on his last run, in Ascot, where he ran no sort of race, but if he came back to his very best he would have a chance. He was able to beat Don Cossack as a novice, but Don Cossack has gone forward since then, whereas Ballycasey seems to have gone backwards.

Dad runs Foxrock. If I can’t win, he’s the one I’d love to see winning. People seemed to think the trip may be on the sharp side for him but he won the Leopardstown Chase over the same trip and he comes here in great form.

Obviously Balder Succes was very good in Ascot, and there’s a lot of strong word for Ma Filleule from the Nicky Henderson stable — they think she’s improved from Ascot — but Don Cossack is the one we have to beat.

His form this season is rock-solid, but his form in England hasn’t been as good as in Ireland. That’s the only concern.

The World Hurdle is a wide-open race but, for me, Zarkandar is the one we all have to beat. There’s no Briar Hill, who, unfortunately, didn’t make it, so I’ve gone for Abbyssial as the ground may be too lively for Zaidpour.

It’s a huge ask for a five-year-old to win this race, over this trip, but I’ll be taking my time on him, trying to get him to run as well as he can. He fell here last year — best not dwell on that — and he also fell last time, when going well at Gowran. Hopefully he has learnt a bit from those couple of falls, and he is in really good form, but it’s just such a tough task for a young horse.

Getting back toyesterday, I know it could never have lived up to Tuesday but that doesn’t mask the disappointment.

Nichols Canyon finished a gallant third in the Neptune but they probably didn’t go fast enough, and maybe I should have made more use of him. But hindsight’s a wonderful thing.

Credit must go to Davy Russell, who gave Windsor Park a great tactical ride. He ensured he got the run of the race, and won well.

Don Poli was very good in the RSA Chase, he won in a hack-canter. I think if my mount, Adriana Des Mottes, had settled better she might have finished second. I was riding to pinch as much as I could but she was keen in my hands all the way, and just didn’t see it out in the end.

Daneking travelled well in the Coral Cup and I was just in behind them going to the second last, and thought I might have a chance. He just flattened out, didn’t pick up, but ran his race in what was a tough handicap.

Champagne Fever not running in the Champion Chase was a blow, but it was a good race to watch and Dodging Bullets was a very good winner. He should have been favourite as he was the form horse, and was a good price at 9-2. You can’t beat form.

There was a great win for Davy in the Cross Country Chase but my heart goes out to Nina on Quantitativeeasing, who was travelling really well when carried out. Who knows what would have happened? Uncle Junior ran a great race for a 14-year-old.

The Irish juveniles just weren’t good enough for the English ones in the Fred Winter, which I would say doesn’t bode well for the Triumph Hurdle tomorrow.

My mount, Buiseness Sivola, jumped too high and never managed get involved.

Bellshill never got balanced in the Bumper. He was never travelling, was all over the place, and I’d say we didn’t go fast enough. It was a disappointing day but it’s onwards and upwards now. Vautour!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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