RUBY WALSH: I expect a big performance from Celestial Halo

THE last three Saturdays have been terrific, with Kauto Star, Denman and Twist Magic, and the plan at Cheltenham today is to keep the run going.

I think there’s every reason to be optimistic, because Celestial Halo has an outstanding chance in the Grade 2 Boylesports’ International Hurdle.

I popped him over a few flights at Paul Nicholls’ yesterday morning and he gave me a smashing feel. This horse looks a million dollars and is in great nick.

He made his seasonal debut at Wincanton, a track we thought mightn’t suit, and he could hardly have been more impressive, defying top weight to the tune of ten lengths. I’d say he has come on since Wincanton.

Of course Punjabi beat us a neck in the Champion Hurdle in March, but has yet to run this season, so I have to be confident of reversing the placings.

I won’t make any secret of it and expect a big performance from Celestial Halo. He is still a decent price for next year’s Champion Hurdle and you could do worse, before racing, than to have a little on him each-way.

As long as Celestial Halo stays sound, I’m firmly of the view time will reveal that to be a bet to nothing!

A couple of days ago, Brian Ellison rang to know if I’d ride Ultimate in the opener and was more than pleased to oblige.

He certainly caught my eye when winning first time over jumps by 22 lengths at Huntingdon. Now, there is a big difference between a flat track like Huntingdon and the stiff new course at Cheltenham.

Perhaps, that will find out Ultimate, but I am more than delighted to be aboard, as we attempt to discover a lot more about the horse.

Inchidaly Rock made a good start over fences at Exeter and is a live prospect in the novice chase. He was only a handicapper over hurdles and this is a step up in class, but I’m hoping he will prove equal to the task. He is, a tough sort, who only does enough and will love both the ground and the trip.

Free World would break your heart and has plenty to do off top weight in a handicap chase. He works beautifully at home, but continues to disappoint on the track.

Whatever the distance of a race, whether you finish uphill or down hill, he always seems to find the last furlong hard work.

And then we come to The Minack, I call him The Maniac, in the three mile novice hurdle. He’s quirky, an oddball, but possesses some engine.

I know he won a point at Bartlemy in Cork, prior to getting off the mark on the racecourse by five lengths at Exeter.

He can get hot before a race and if you want to go one way, and he thinks the other way is better, then he usually wins.

But he gave me a great feel at Exter and, if behaving himself, will take a lot of beating!

The more the ground dries out, the more confident I would be regarding Poquelin in the Boylesports’ Gold Cup.

He ran a cracker behind Tranquil Sea in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham, on ground he absolutely hated.

That contest took place on the old track and that had been watered in October. They don’t water the new track, so that’s in our favour.

The rival which worries me the most is Paul’s Chapoturgeon. He’s in serious order right now.

I don’t ride in the Relkeel Hurdle, but will be watching Nicky Henderson’s Zaynar with more than a little interest. I think he’s a proper horse.

I’m at Navan tomorrow and will begin my day on Cousin Vinny in the beginners chase. I’ve ridden him in lots of work at home, but never in public.

He’s a clean and careful jumper and I’m really looking forward to him. We know Cousin Vinny is a high-class horse and his form over hurdles ties in with the likes of Micael d’Haguenet and Pandorama and that speaks for itself.

I hope Scotsirish can make a race of it with Donnas Palm in the Grade 2 hurdle. He’s smarter over fences, but we will be giving it a go anyway.

Rhyl Accord steps from winning a maiden at Thurles into top company in the Grade 1 novice hurdle.

This is a horse I like and, judged on his work at home, seems to have a lovely turn of foot. There may be only four runners, but it’s a smart little contest, although I’m expecting plenty from my lad.

Truxton King, Southern Vic and All The Cousins are my three other rides. They’re not without hope, but are hardly among my more likely possibilities for the weekend.

I’m off to Plumpton on Monday to ride Mahonia and Aldertune and Paul says they will both win. Don’t blame me.

I will be down to see my Cork friends on Tuesday and then next Saturday will be all about Big Buck’s at Ascot.


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