Ruby Walsh: Exceptional Douvan looks back to himself

Yesterday was a great day, a very emotional day, a day that I owe to a lot of people.

Ruby Walsh: Exceptional Douvan looks back to himself

To Enda King in Santry, for all the rehab, and the programme he set out and for the way he stuck to it and made me stick to it.

There were times I was going in there and, in my mind, my leg was still as sore as it was when I was last in there.

But he kept convincing me that we were making progress, and that I was going to make the target for my return.

From day one, getting back for Cheltenham was the target and he worked back from there, and set the programme for that. I wish I had come across him when I was 25, not when I was 34.

And it was a day I owed to Gillian and the kids. To go from an active sportsperson to almost useless is hard to take, and I was as grumpy as hell for the winter.

I know I was, and couldn’t pull myself out of it, but Gillian pulled us all along together. I suppose the kids keep you sane at times, but I can’t have been fun dad, and I most certainly wasn’t a fun husband.

For them and for everyone who has stood by me, helped me through it, getting back to Cheltenham and back to the winner’s enclosure was extra-special.

Getabird went awry from very early on in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He ran with the choke out, but I guess the losing of one can be the winning of another for you, and I realised then that getting involved in the pace of the Arkle wasn’t going to be the right thing.

Footpad made a mistake at the first down the back, and that wasn’t ideal. I haven’t that much riding done recently, and I knew I was doing the right thing, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t panicking.

When you make a plan when you’re riding horses the biggest mistake is to change that plan. You might be wrong with what you’re doing, but if you change it you’re most definitely going to be wrong.

Footpad reeled them in coming down the hill and won spectacularly. It was a great feeling.

Faugheen just wants three miles nowadays — he was too slow in the Champion Hurdle. But I must say I was roaring my head off from the last for Paul Townend, on Melon.

He gave him a brilliant ride, but Buveur D’Air was just too good.

Benie Des Dieux ground it out in the Mares’ Hurdle. She wants further, and she wants fences, and it’s testament to her class that she won.

I can’t expect another day like that today, but I can hope for it, and I have some great rides to look forward to, above all Douvan.

We have been lucky enough to have had four brilliant horses: Vautour, Faugheen in his pomp, Annie Power, and Douvan. And I have never had Min in that bracket.

I think Douvan is an exceptional racehorse. What I saw him do in his last two bits of work at home, and when I saw him on the track here on Monday morning I thought he looked back to himself.

He has only been beaten once in his life, he’s a hell of a racehorse, and I can’t wait to ride him.

In an ordinary year, I would say Next Destination would take beating in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

He’s had an ideal preparation— he won a two-three maiden, he won the two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle at Navan, and went to Naas and won the Grade One.

In any other year you’d be coming to Cheltenham very confident, but the fact is he has to go there and take on Samcro, who has done everything that has ever been asked of him.

Samcro is a beautiful horse. He’s probably the one horse in training I wish was in Closutton. He has a great attitude, is a great traveller and a great jumper.

He has everything and is going to be very hard to beat, but we’re going to give it a shot on Next Destination. Our horse fits the bill and soft ground won’t inconvenience him.

We run four in the race, and Brahma Bull is definitely flying under the radar. His homework has been very good, and he seems to be a much better horse now than when he won in Thurles.

I know Willie thinks he is an each-way player.

Duc Des Genievres has a bit to find with Samcro and with Next Destination, but he has improved on his two starts, and is working well. I just hope the ground isn’t too soft him.

Scarpeta bolted in in his maiden hurdle at Gowran Park and is a bit of an unknown, but he would have to post a career-best to get involved.

The RSA is a cracking race. With the way the ground has gone, I think it’s going to inconvenience Black Corton, who is the main British hope.

Bryony Frost has got a great tune out of him this winter, and he has improved out of all recognition, but it’s going to be hard for him.

With Presenting Percy and Monalee it just depends what camp you’re in.

I’m probably in the Monalee camp — I prefer the way he went from the last in Leopardstown than the way Presenting Percy went from the last in Gowran Park on their respective last starts.

He’s also a more mature horse than when he ran in the Albert Bartlett last year and is a very good jumper.

I ride Al Boum Photo, who has a couple of lengths to make up on Monalee. I’d be hoping he can, but it will be hard for him.

We also run Bonbon Au Miel, who is very unexposed, but has to improve on what he has shown.

We run five in the Coral Cup, and I ride Max Dynamite, who I think is very well handicapped if we could just get him to click on the day.

The ground is a concern for him but the reason I stuck with him is because I think the pace of the race, on the slow ground, will allow him time to jump.

I don’t think he’ll have any problem with the trip, he’s a high-class Flat horse and if he gets a bit of luck he could run a big race.

I think Voix Du Reve is the dark horse. I think he’ll love the ground, and he was unlucky when falling at the last when challenging in the Fred Winter a couple of years ago.

Paul rides Bleu Berry, who has improved a lot since his return at Leopardstown and was a decent horse last spring.

We also run Abbyssial, who ran well at Gowran but it’s his second run back after a break and that’s always difficult. That said, he’s a fair horse on his day and will love the ground.

C’est Jersey was disappointing over fences on his last start and is probably going the wrong way around.

We have no runner in the Cross Country Chase, but I think Irish horses will dominate, and think Gordon could have the first two, with Cause Of Causes and Tiger Roll.

We don’t have any runner in the Fred Winter either, but I know Paul Nicholls likes his horse, Act Of Valour, and Dan Skelton likes his runner, Nube Negra.

We have five in the bumper, and Patrick has gone with Blackbow. On form, he’s the horse to ride. I thought he was brilliant in Leopardstown, and he’s a gorgeous horse with a huge future.

I went for Carefully Selected. The ground swayed me. I like Tornado Flyer but I think the ground will play to Carefully Selected’s stamina.

Having said that, horses coming out of the race he won at Naas have a poor record here. Tornado Flyer is unexposed.

I tipped him up at the Examiner Breakfast five or six weeks ago and if you took the 25-1 that day you’re probably laughing.

The two fillies, Colreevy and Relegate, are fine prospects, but they probably have to improve. I also know that Patrick likes Gordon’s horse, Felix Desjy. He rode him to win at Down Royal and was pretty taken by him.

He thinks he can be a live runner today, and I think Patrick has the best handle on Irish bumper form.

Ruby’s tips


Douvan - Champions Chase, 3:30pm

Each-way Double

Al Boum Photo - RSA Chase, 2:10pm

Carefully Selected - Champion Bumper, 5.30pm

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