RUBY WALSH: Faugheen showing speed and enthusiasm on gallops

After a week off I’m really looking forward to getting back racing, and the return of Faugheen is a great motivation, writes Ruby Walsh.

I was advised to take the time off, and it definitely worked. I rode four lots on Thursday, and rode Douvan in work, and he’s in great order. I also schooled a couple yesterday morning, and am now ready for action.

There’s has been plenty of chat about Faugheen’s return, in tomorrow’s Morgiana Hurdle, and it’s great to have him back. From being on the inside, I always felt he would be back, knowing the extent of what was wrong with him, and how minor the issues were – they just came at the wrong times. I suppose from the outside people were having their doubts, but he’s back now and that’s the most important thing.

He seems very well, and is as fit as we can have him for his first run. He has a lot of work under his belt, but there’s no substitute for a race. We don’t know for certain if he retains all his ability, but we’re very happy with what we’re seeing at home, and would like to think he has. We’ll find out tomorrow.

He’s in against three race-fit rivals, in Campeador, Swamp Fox and Jezki. But, the handicapper says he has 17lbs in hand of most of those. I’m happy with him, I know John Codd is, and I think Willie is. He hasn’t a whole lot of mileage on the clock, looks to retain his enthusiasm, and works with the speed he had.

Willie also runs Vroum Vroum Mag in the race. She got injured in the Champion Hurdle there, and had a bit of box rest afterwards. Jackie rides her in all her work, and is happy with her, but she would have to be right at her very best to trouble Faugheen.

I have four rides this afternoon, starting off on Minnie Dahill, for Dad, in the juvenile hurdle. She was no match for Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir D’Allen the last day, and I think she might struggle on the ground. Despite carrying a penalty, Mitchouka is the one to beat.

I ride Invitation Only in the beginners’ chase, but there are a couple of very good horses in here. Any Second Now was very good on his early starts last year, and Monalee has a huge reputation. He looks like a chaser in the making, and has to be given maximum respect.

Invitation Only was good on his first start of last year, but probably didn’t build on that. He’s in good order at home, but will have to improve on his hurdling form to beat Monalee.

I’m on Burrows Saint in the maiden hurdle. He works like a stayer, and has plenty of experience from France, where he ran over hurdles and fences. He is good order, and should be suited by two and a half miles. We haven’t the screw turned to find out how good he is, but maybe he’ll show a bit more on the track. Touch wood he’ll give a good account of himself. Flawless Escape looked good winning his bumper at Roscommon, and might be the one we have to beat, though most of the runners are unexposed.

Let’s Dance makes her return in the Grabel Mares’ Hurdle. She won the race last year, beating Shattered Love, and has a penalty to carry this time. She has to give 10lbs to Barra, who she beat at Cheltenham, and that difference brings them very close together.

Barra was disappointing at Wexford, behind Willie’s other mare, Court Artist, but she’s likely to benefit from that run. On ratings, we don’t have that much of an advantage and you have to give Barra plenty of respect based on her run in Cheltenham. But, our mare is in good form, so fingers crossed she can repeat last year’s success in the race.

Back to tomorrow’s meeting at Punchestown, I ride Steel Wave, who makes his debut for Willie, in the three-mile handicap hurdle. I’m not sure he wants the ground as testing as it will be. The trip will suit, and he has won around here, but I just worry he wants better ground.

I ride Cosmo’s Moon, for Robbie McNamara, in the auction maiden hurdle. It doesn’t look the strongest of races, and Mighty Stowaway, who has a mark of 121, probably sets the standard. My mount ran well in Galway, and watching and reading that race suggests the extra couple of furlongs today will suit him.

Willie runs Arbre De Vie in the Florida Pearl Novice Chase, but he wasn’t keen on me riding over fences before Faugheen. Paul rides him, and he’s a consistent horse who should run his race. But, if Presenting Percy and Shattered Love are going to be graded novice chasers they’d probably have to be beating Arbre De Vie.

In the first race in Cork, Willie runs a mare called Mary Sun, who has come from Germany. She’s a sharp mare, a mile-and-a-quarter winner on soft ground on the flat, and this track should suit her. Hopefully she’ll handle the very testing ground as she goes well, has schooled well, and should run a big race.

Willie also runs Itsonlyrocknroll in the second race, a two-mile maiden hurdle. I think this track will suit him better than Wexford did. He travelled too well down the hill there, and emptied on the stiff finish. This flatter track will suit and, with the run over hurdles under his belt, should go close.

I fancy Le Prezien in the big race (BetVictor Gold Cup) in Cheltenham. I think he fits the profile, he’ll improve for his run there in October and, in a competitive race, should go very well. Lake Takapuna and Tully East both travel over for the race, but probably have to improve on what they’ve achieved.

The Greatwood Hurdle is tomorrow’s feature at Cheltenham, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, off 11 stone, Ivanovich Gorbatov popped up. He’s a Triumph Hurdle winner, a hardy sort, and could be just the type for this race.

Ruby’s rant: Jacob outcome was the correct one

I thought the outcome was right after Daryl Jacob was referred on for giving out to Tom George’s son, Noel, at Cheltenham. That’s how we all learnt in racing.

I remember John Shortt, Conor O’Dwyer, Philip Dempsey and Tony Martin, amongst others, getting on to me and lecturing me at different times if I did something stupid or something I shouldn’t have done in a race. But, that’s how you learn to do things right.

Daryl caught Noel by the colours, but he did so to say ‘come here and listen to me’. I think we can be too politically correct in society, and if the older don’t put the younger right about what’s acceptable and what’s not, you end up with no discipline.

Racing is a dangerous game, and it is up to the older lads to educate the younger, without bullying them, of course. How do you learn the unwritten rules of any sport if not taught them by your peers?

I think it was the right outcome that nothing happened to Daryl, but I did think that it was a bit ridiculous that he even had to answer a question.


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