It’s Gold Cup day at Cheltenham but I won’t be disappointed if the forecast rain arrived overnight and continues through the morning as it will suit my mount, Djakadam, writes Ruby Walsh.
I was impressed with him when we won the Thyestes Chase at Gowran, on testing ground, and there’s definitely plenty more to come from him. He’s a big, strong horse, but just a six-year-old, and improving all the time.
The disappointment of the Bumper aside, everything has been going great for Willie’s horses this week, and I can report this fellow to be in great form. He looked a real value bet at 16-1 a couple of weeks ago, and I suppose he’s still an each-way price. The favourite is going to be hard to beat, but I’m going there with a live chance.
Of Willie’s other horses, Boston Bob has run well here in the past but I don’t think the rain will help to him.
It might favour On His Own, but I think both have to run career bests to get involved.
Silviniaco Conti is the class horse of the race, having won the King George so impressively. I rode him in this race a couple of years ago and we were still going well when he fell at the third last. He had every chance when finishing fourth last year, but he looks a better horse this year and he’s definitely the one we all have to beat.
Of the Irish runners outside of Willie’s three, Road To Riches is the form horse, but Carlingford Lough is a real improver. Lord Windermere won the race last year but he got a brilliant ride form Davy Russell and I think that was the difference between winning and losing.
A lot of people seem to fancy Holywell but I think he has to improve again. Many Clouds was a good winner of the Hennessy and won here on his last start, and he’ll appreciate a drop of rain.
Silviniaco Conti is deserving favourite, but you can make a case for a lot of them. I’m happy with Djakadam and hopefully he’ll go close to giving Willie a first Gold Cup.
The day begins with the Triumph Hurdle, and Willie runs three in this. Bryan Cooper rides Gigginstown’s Petite Parisienne, and I’ve gone for Dicosimo over Kalkir.
I don’t think there’s a good jump between Kalkir and Petite Parisienne and so I’ve taken a chance on Dicosimo because he’s a little less exposed and might improve past them.
It’s just a chance, though, and, after the Fred Winter, I think the British juveniles could be well ahead of ours. Nicky Henderson has a strong hand. His Peace And Co is a strong favourite, and Hargam has a great chance, but Top Notch could be the best of the three if the rain has arrived.
The County Hurdle is a real lottery, and Willie runs five: Sempre Medici, Max Dynamite, which I ride, Analifet, Lucky Bridle and Wicklow Brave.
Honestly, if the five of them were having their own private race I wouldn’t know which one to ride, never mind trying to beat everyone else’s horses as well!
I went for Max Dynamite because he has a light weight, and he was a stayer on the flat. If I get lucky, I get lucky. Of the others, Quick Jack is a leading fancy, but there’s plenty of chat for Gordon Elliott’s The Game Changer.
Moving on to the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, I’m really looking forward to Black Hercules, my nap today.
I love this horse. His form is very good, he beat Alpha Des Obeaux in Cork last time, and the runner-up ran well behind Douvan next time. He’s a fine, strong horse, wants every yard of the trip, and it won’t bother him if the rain comes. I think he has an outstanding chance.
Willie runs three in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle, and it’s a race he’s had a good bit of luck in. It’s unusual insofar as we think all three of ours are well treated, and all have good chances.
Roi Des Francs is a massive improver and probably deserves to be favourite, but McKinley looks leniently treated, considering he’s a Grade One winner. He should run a big race.
Killultagh Vic is Willie’s other runner and he jumped terribly at Leopardstown last time, behind Outlander. That wasn’t his true form and if Luke Dempsey can get him into a rhythm with his jumping, he’s unexposed and could be the dark one. He’s working really well, I give him a great chance, and would not put anyone off having an each-way bet on him.
In the Grand Annual, which wraps up the meeting, I could have ridden Turban, but he has top weight, and so I chose Blood Cotil. He’s a bit lower down in the weights. True, it took him a long time to win a chase but he did it well the last day, and has plenty of experience.
You need a stayer to win this, he’s a good jumper, and has each-way claims.
The race is named after AP McCoy and we’ll all miss him when he retires at the end of the season. Almost every person in Cheltenham today will be hoping he signs off with a winner on his final Festival ride but we’ve had some great battles down through the years and I can tell you if we land over the last out in front together, I won’t be giving him an inch.
I had only three rides yesterday but what can I say about Vautour’s performance in the JLT. He was phenomenal. Amazing.
He jumped super, settled great, bounced off the ground, has pace, stamina, scope, can get in tight. I love him — I’ve never hidden that — he just has it all. The plan was always to come here and Willie peaked him perfectly.
He gave an exhibition of jumping — Denman was the last novice I rode which jumped like that, and we all know how he turned out.
My other two rides were less conspicuous. Ballycasey never rose a gallop in the Ryanair Chase. Uxizandre did it well, but wasn’t it about time AP rode a winner!
Abbyssial ran as I thought in the World Hurdle. I’m still a bit worried about his jumping, as he threw in a few wild jumps. You can’t do that in a three-mile race, but it was a good effort from the winner.
Ruby’s Comment: Why I don’t take the tricolour
People have asked me why I don’t take the tricolour when returning to the parade ring.
I choose not to, but it’s got nothing to do with patriotism. Horses can be quite lit-up, and very excited, and anyone who knows anything about a horse knows you don’t carry a flag on a horse.
It’s the same a riding a horse with your jacket open: it starts flapping in the wind, and frightens the horse.
I can’t understand lads taking a flag, it’s only a matter of time before someone walking in to the parade ring gets dropped off a horse.
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