It has been another incredible week for Willie and for him to become the leading trainer in Cheltenham Festival history is nothing short of remarkable, writes Ruby Walsh. But it’s no surprise to me, he is a genius.
For my own point of view, Tuesday was brilliant and Wednesday very disappointing — but that’s life.
The injury is right at the back of where the old fracture was, at the weakest point. I couldn’t give it any more time, and this is a game of chance, and it was a chance I was
willing to take.
But I must say Cheltenham looked after me very well since I had the fall.
As well as for Willie, it has been another superb week for Ireland, and another signal of the strength of Irish racing right now. I think a huge part of that is the level of prize money in Ireland. It goes some of the way to covering the expenses of owning horses and encourages owners to invest in horses here.
It was great for Paul, Jack, Davy and, of course, Barry winning the Champion Hurdle.
Willie has plenty of runners this weekend and with the horses in such good form hopefully he will be able to keep this great run going.
Msassa makes his debut for us in the two-mile maiden at Wexford. He was due to run at Naas last week, but the meeting was called off.
We have had plenty of four-year-old winners this season and he is another fine prospect and should ensure Paul rides the first winner on St Patrick’s Day.
We run Small Farm, a point-to-point winner, in the bumper. He’s a fine big horse, more suited to a big galloping track, but he has bags of stamina and the ground should be plenty testing enough so I’d expect him to go very close.
Antey is our first runner tomorrow at Navan and while he has been disappointing he is probably hard to oppose.
He has a mark of 122, which should be good enough to win a maiden, and he has been working well since he finished second at Navan.
Draconien, who runs in the listed novice hurdle, is coming back after a disappointing run at Clonmel. I’m not sure really heavy ground is what he wants, and he may be one to keep in mind for Fairyhouse and Punchestown, where the ground should be more to his liking.
Great Field makes his long-awaited seasonal debut in the Grade Two Chase and Jody McGarvey is back on board to renew their fruitful association.
He has plenty of work done and is in good form, and hopefully this race can set him up for the spring festivals.
Only three run in the Flyingbolt Novices’ Chase and our runner, Saturanas, is in great form. Ideally he wants further than two miles but the ground will be testing, which should bring his stamina into play. He could have run in the Arkle and the way that race panned out he could have finished second to Footpad. That should be good enough to win here, though Tombstone sets a good standard.
Augustin probably lacks a bit of chasing experience going into the novice handicap chase final, but he has course form and has improved since his win at Clonmel.
He stays well and is owned by Lucky Luke (McMahon), who had a winner at the Festival, so it would be no surprise were he to go very close.
Rio Vivas, who runs in the bumper, was disappointing on his only run for us. I’m always cautious about our bumper horses when they run below expectation, and certainly less inclined to forgive them than I would be if one disappointed in a maiden hurdle. He has been working well recently, but he was working well before Thurles so I’d advise a watching brief.
We run two in the Grade Three Shannon Spray Novices’ Hurdle tomorrow at Limerick and I think Redhotfillypeppers is the pick of them.
She is ridden by her owner, David Dunsdon, and I thought she was very good at Fairyhouse, where she galloped strongly to the line. The two-and-three-quarter-mile trip should suit, and I think she will go very close.
She’s a bigger, stronger mare than Court Artist. The last-named is a very nice filly, but two miles six on testing ground could be a bit too tough for her.
Kate Appleby Shoes runs in the Grade Two Mares’ Novice Chase.
The testing ground suits her and she is returning to the scene of her victory over fences, but her jumping remains a concern. Horses like her, who back off at their fences, are very difficult to ride, and I can only wish Danny the best of luck on her and hope he gets a good tune out of her.
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