Djakadam gave it his all

Nichols Canyon is not the best work horse in the world, but he’s going as well now as he was before Cheltenham, writes Ruby Walsh.
Djakadam gave it his all

Djakadam in yesterday’s Punchestown Gold Cup was just another frustrating near-miss in a season in which we have hit the crossbar with all too regular a frequency. We gave it everything, but, on this occasion, it wasn’t enough.

Coneygree made it a great race. It was an honest gallop all the way. Djakadam travelled great, he jumped super, but met the last very low. I went for the stride, but he put in another one, and did very well to stand up, and then battled tenaciously all the way to about three strides from the line.

However, to get himself back so close to Sizing John with the mistake he made at the last was a testament to the horse. He gave his all, I tried my best, and, unfortunately, it came up short yesterday.

Battleford didn’t jump well enough in the two-and-a-half-mile hurdle but, as I suggested could happen here yesterday, the blinkers worked on C’est Jersey. He had been showing us that all along in his home work, but had been disappointing on the track. Battleford needs to brush up on his jumping, but will be a nice staying chaser next year.

Penhill I would love another go on. I got out of my ground in the three-mile novice hurdle, but I raced too keenly and knew that when he passed one he would take off. Ultimately, he burned himself out.

But that’s racing, we must take it on the chin, move on, and look forward.

Switching to this afternoon’s racing, I suppose I had a choice in the Stayers’ Hurdle, but it would be very difficult to get off the horse you won the World Hurdle on, Nichols Canyon.

We think he’s in good form, but you never know with him. He’s not the best work horse in the world, but he’s going as well now as he was before Cheltenham, so we’ll take it from that that he’s in good form.

It was a great performance from him in Cheltenham and I think he’s a better horse going right-handed, so I think he’ll be a bit better at Punchestown, anyway. He’s a cracking little horse. He has eight Grade 1s won now and, from being an outsider in Cheltenham, he’s now the one the others have to beat.

Shaneshill and Clondaw Warrior will appreciate the drying ground and the easier track, while Footpad ran a bit keen in the Champion Hurdle, but is crying out for a trip, and could be a dark horse. That said, he’s only a five-year-old, and it’s difficult for young horses to beat older horses over this trip at this time of the year.

Outside of our horses, among the other runners you have Unowhatimeanharry, Lil Rockerfeller, Sutton Place and last year’s winner, One Track Mind. It’s a very good race, but I wouldn’t swap Nichols Canyon. He’s a smashing little horse, and a lot of his best runs have been here at Punchestown, so I’m hoping for another today.

I ride Old Castletown for dad in the opener, the JLT Handicap Hurdle. It’s his first run of the season and it’s a very competitive handicap hurdle, but he’ll like the ground. He’s a good bit lower over hurdles than over fences, and could run a nice race, which should set him up for a summer campaign.

I had the choice of three in the three-mile handicap hurdle, but took a chance on Kate Appleby Shoes, as she’s the one who could be improving, or ahead of her mark. Screaming Rose was disappointing last week in Fairyhouse and, if Sure Reef came back to the horse he was two years ago, he’d win, but we haven’t seen that form lately.

However, Kate Appleby Shoes has done nothing but improve all year, and could be ahead of the handicapper. It’s a shot in the dark, and I don’t have a strong opinion, but I’d be delighted if she ran well.

Obviously Great Field is Willie’s number one in the Ryanair Novice Chase. He was outstanding at Leopardstown and Thurles. He has made a few mistakes, which people have been quick to point out, but look at the performances he has put in. He has trounced good horses both times. I think he is improving in his jumping all the time, and I’d say he’s just a very, very good horse. Quicker ground will help and he’ll be hard to beat.

I went for Townshend over Listen Dear, but I really don’t know if I’ve made the right choice. They both have something to find, on the book. Ordinary World is probably the best of the other Irish novices, but I’d be delighted if Townshend ran in to a place.

I had another choice to make in the mares’ novice hurdle, and went for Asthuria over Good Thyne Tara and Pravalaguna. I went for Pravalaguna over Asthuria when they clashed at Fairyhouse, in February, and there was no comparison between them; I got that one completely wrong.

Pravalaguna fell when in with every shout at Naas, but I think Asthuria probably ran better than her finishing position suggests, when fifth behind Let’s Dance, at Cheltenham, and I think there’s a good race in her.

Good Thyne Tara is officially the highest rated of Willie’s, but she only ran last Sunday, and has only two runs over hurdles. I’m taking a chance, but could be wrong.

Patrick rides Next Destination in the bumper. I rode him in the bumper at Cheltenham, and he ran really well. He could easily have lined up in the Champion Bumper here this week, but Patrick has split them to give himself the best chance he can in the race for the amateur riders’ title. He’s in good form, and I think he’ll be hard to beat.

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