RUBY WALSH: Get off to a flier with Far West in Cheltenham opener

My nap of the weekend comes in the very first race at Cheltenham today — Far West in the juvenile hurdle — so we’ll all be out of our collective misery fairly early.

Mind you, I’m confident this progressive and gorgeous horse will do the business and that will, hopefully, set us all up for a decent couple of days.

Far West is one of many Paul Nicholls French-imports and has done everything, and more, asked of him in two outings in Britain.

He’s two from two, winning at Chepstow and Cheltenham. Far West was very green at Chepstow and green again the last day at Cheltenham.

But it didn’t stop him producing really good efforts and he is clearly heading in the right direction. He has lots of scope for improvement and I’ll be disappointed if we get beaten.

Shooters Wood has a light weight to carry in a handicap chase and shouldn’t be far away, after scoring at Cheltenham last time. I rode him and he went up 8lbs for that.

I’m going to be handy today, but will be keeping a bit for later on and he won’t be a sitting duck or anything. Shooters has a solid each-way chance, no more.

I’m on Aerial in a Grade 2 over hurdles, with the six-year-old returning to this game after finishing sixth of the six finishers behind Al Ferof in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham.

I’m hoping for the best, but suspect that three miles, on rain-softened ground, will probably find him out.

Cristal Bonus has his share of weight — 11-7 — in the Grade 3 handicap chase, but is more than capable of a big run.

He was good when taking a Grade 2 conditions chase at Down Royal on his reappearance and we’re hoping can build on that effort.

This, however, is competitive and Walkon — after chasing home Al Ferof in the Paddy Power — has to be on any short list.

It looks as if Paul’s Unioniste is going to get into the contest. This is a horse I really like and won’t be at all surprised should he win.

My day ends on Zarkandar in a cracking Grade 2 hurdle. We can safely narrow this down to three, my horse, Rock On Ruby and Grandouet and it’s such a good race that it should actually carry Grade 1 status.

I’m puzzled as to why Zarkandar is favourite in front of Rock On Ruby who is, after all, the reigning champion hurdler.

I suppose its because Zarkandar has had a run, but Harry Fry’s charges are flying and, with a lot of money on offer, I’d say Rock On Ruby will be fairly straight.

Grandouet is classy, but whether he will stay as well as the other two I don’t know. It’s a contest to savour and I’ve an open mind as to how it is going to work out.

I’m delighted Boston Bob is making his debut over fences in the opener at Navan tomorrow, rather than on a Saturday.

A cracking horse, it will be his first run since chasing home Brindisi Breeze in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March.

He has schooled well, done a lot of work and the expectation at Willie Mullins’ is that he will go and deliver in style.

On ratings Simenon should win a Grade 2 hurdle, but he performed so badly at Punchestown last time that it is hard to be confident.

He stays extreme distances on the flat, but it is worth noting that both his wins over flights have come at two miles.

I had a choice between Pont Alexandre and Reine Angevine in a Grade 1 hurdle and have gone with the former.

He is a winner over hurdles in France, is a grand horse and doing everything right at home. But, realistically, we are all running for second.

I thought Don Cossack was unbelievably impressive first time over jumps at Navan and it will take a brave man to oppose him.

In theory, I suppose, Wingtips is a certainty in a maiden hurdle, assuming he puts it all in. He has plenty ability, but certainly has a think about the game. The plan will be to arrive late.

Tony Martin trains Wingtips and I end on another of his, Matsukaze, in a handicap hurdle. I rode him one day at Punchestown months ago and thought he was alright, but other than that I know nothing about the horse.

One I fancy at Fairyhouse today is Apt Approach in a Rated Hurdle. He’s in good shape right now, working quite nicely at home.


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