RUBY WALSH: Staying at home for Faugheen and Felix

It’s a busy weekend for Willie Mullins’ stable, with runners at four meetings, including this afternoon at Aintree, but I’m staying at home to ride at Navan, where the exciting Faugheen and Felix Yonger hold very strong claims.

EASY WINNER: Faugheen,  absolutely bolted up at Punchestown on his first run this season. Picture: Healy Racing
EASY WINNER: Faugheen, absolutely bolted up at Punchestown on his first run this season. Picture: Healy Racing

But, I start off on Vautour in a 30-runner maiden hurdle. He had two runs in France, finishing second in a couple of hurdles, firstly at Pau and then at Auteuil.

He does things nicely at home, though we'd have preferred nine rivals rather than 29, but there's not a lot we can do about that.

It's a very competitive race, with a number of decent-looking prospects and I don't know if he's good enough to win it but the bit of hurdling experience will stand to him and he should certainly give a good account of himself.

I'm on Grandma Dotty for Charlie Swan in the following maiden hurdle, but Willie runs Urticaire for Gigginstown and she should take beating.

She's having her first run over hurdles but she won four of her five in bumpers in France and has schooled well at home. If she jumps, she should win.

Faugheen, which I ride in the two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle, absolutely bolted up at Punchestown on his first run of this season and the third, Oscar Chimes, won since in Thurles, so the form doesn’t look too bad.

He has been in very good form at home, worked really well during the week and is, without doubt, the reason I’m staying at home.

Willie has three of the four runners in the novice chase and Felix Yonger was the obvious one for me to ride.

He was very good at Punchestown when he beat Defy Logic, and he should confirm that form with Passage Vendome (well beaten in third), while he was a better novice hurdler than Willie's other horse, The Paparrazi Kid.

The only other runner in the race, Trifolium, was a high-class hurdler in his day and was very impressive when he won his beginners' chase at Thurles, off a long lay-off.

We're conceding four pounds to him but that's no big deal, as we have two runs over fences and he has only one. Hopefully that will balance it out but Trifolium was very good in Thurles and he'll take a bit of passing.

Willie has three runners today in Aintree and Paul (Townend) is on on Gitane Du Berlais in the juvenile fillies’ listed race.

I was a bit disappointed with her when I rode her at Down Royal on her first start for the stable.

She was never really going then and just plugged on at the same pace.

She has come on for the run and maybe she’ll like the better ground at Aintree.

She’s better now than she was then but she’ll probably have to have improved.

That said, there aren’t that many good juvenile fillies, with experience, in Britain and she has buckets of it. She’s very fit, very well and hopefully she’ll run accordingly.

Paul rides On His Own in the Becher Chase. He was one of the favourites for the Aintree Grand National in April but never really got into any sort of rhythm and fell at Valentine’s, second time around.

He also fell at Becher’s on the second circuit the previous year, but he’s in really, really good form at the moment.

He’s probably one for in-running punters. If he gets into a good rhythm early and is jumping well, I’d be getting on him then.

You’ll know a lot by the time they get back to the second-last fence first time around.

David Casey rides Vesper Bell, who is having his first run of the year. He’s a great jumper and will love the trip but it’s hard to win these races first time up.

Clonard Lad is my first ride tomorrow in Punchestown. In terms of ratings, it’s a good race for him, but two miles will be plenty sharp enough.

The further he goes, the better he is. He’s in good form and should go well but he might find one or two too sharp for him.

I ride Arvika Ligeonniere in the John Durkan Memorial and you’d imagine he’ll have to improve to beat an in-form Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs. Form is temporary and class is permanent - it’s as simple as that.

But, I suppose what you’re going on is the fact Arvika won the Clonmel Oil Chase, has improved for the run and seems to be really well.

Flemenstar wasn’t so impressive in Navan and Sir Des Champs is having his first run of the season and so you’re thinking to yourself you might have a chance.

But, on current ratings, he is only third best.

He’s a second-season novice and should improve - we think he has - but he has to.

It’ll be an interesting race tactically and I’m really looking forward to it.

Dogora tries again in the beginners’ chase. He was unlucky in Gowran, first time over fences. He fell out on his head but he’s none the worse for it and has been working really well at home.

I ride Daring Article for Robert Tyner in the two-mile-six handicap chase.

He’s a consistent sort and looks on a workable mark, though it’s a good and competitive race.

I haven’t had many rides for Robert Tyner but I’ve had a bit of success for him. He’s a shrewd individual and I’m happy to be riding for him.

But, the one I really fancy tomorrow is Black Hercules, in the bumper.

He’s a gorgeous big individual, who won his point to point and I love the way he does things at home.

If it’s all doom and gloom by tomorrow evening, he could be one to get punters out of jail.

Willie runs three in Cork, getting going with Rathvinden in the maiden hurdle.

He won his bumper there and returns to the scene of the crime.

He has schooled really well and this doesn’t look the hottest maiden hurdle of the weekend so I suppose he’ll be a bit disappointed if he doesn’t win.

Alelchi Inois, who runs in the Grade 3 hurdle, has to overcome a disappointing effort in Navan.

It was a step up in grade, they always seemed to be going too fast for him and he didn’t jump as well as he can.

The step up to three miles should help but it’s only two weeks since he ran and there aren’t many opportunities for him..

Twinlight, who was very impressive in Naas, runs in the Hilly Way Chase.

He jumped like a buck, travelled really well and, basically, sluiced up that day in Naas.

He’s much better going right-handed so Cork should suit and Willie also has a great record in the race. He has a good chance in what is a very competitive race.



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