He doesn’t have too many bad days in fairness and he has been riding even further out of his skin this week, striding further clear on the all-time leader list.
Most sports stars have an obvious skill that sets them apart. McIlroy’s driving, Messi’s touch, Djokovic’s defence. Ruby’s differentiator seems to lie mostly between his ears.
Judgement, confidence and self-belief. As Willie Mullins put it: “He just oozes class and he’s always in the right place at the right time in a race.” Clearly this is not as easy as it sounds.
They were once the beating heart of national hunt racing but have tended to be squeezed out by the industrial scale operations that have evolved in recent years. Yesterday was a nice nod to the old days. Mall Dini, who is one of only five horses trained by Pat Kelly in Craughwell, had to survive a steward’s enquiry before he was confirmed as the winner of the Pertemps Hurdle. Owned by Philip Reynolds, son of late Taoiseach Albert, who displayed a pure unreserved joy in victory which is unfortunately rare these days.
Also managed by a relatively small scale trainer in Colin Tizzard who was obviously delighted with the power and dominance his eight year old displayed in destroying a good field in the World Hurdle. He also sounded like a man who had some self-imposed anxieties in the run up to the race. “There has been pressure for the last three weeks,” he said afterwards. “Every day is another one ticked off. You have to do the work with the horses - you can’t just trot them around the roads - and every day is pressure.” He ain’t seen nothing yet. Some predatory bookmakers were already quoting him at 10/1 for next year’s Gold Cup despite the fact he has yet to jump a fence in public. That’s pressure.
Trains a small string of horses near the Meath/Dublin border. He doesn’t have too many runners, just 28 so far this season, four of them winners. By far the best horse in the yard is Zabana who was pipped in the Coral Cup last year and who lined up yesterday for the JLT Novices Chase. Lined up that is with his back to the starter, who either didn’t notice or lost patience and raised the tape anyway. Zabana was bumped, an angry Davy Russell fell off and a year of dreaming for was over.
Used some of the largesse generated by the success of his airline to sponsor the two Grade 1’s yesterday, the Ryanair Chase and the World Hurdle. Although he has come over all warm and cuddly recently, O’Leary would have been ferociously hoping to gather some of his own money and mail it back to his Gigginstown operation. Poor old Michael had lined up Road to Riches and Valseur Lido for the chase and must have grinded a few molars as he watched the rerouted Vautour bound away from them both. In fairness, he could have no complaints about Alpha Des Obeaux losing to the wonderful Thistlecrack but losing out on his own money twice in a day – ouch!
Of course these set-backs for O’Leary would have paled into insignificance on news of the death of his promising novice chaser, No More Heroes who had to be put down on Wednesday night after suffering a tendon injury in the RSA Chase.
He was a slightly disappointing fourth in the race, but it was soon obvious that all wasn’t well as Bryan Cooper dismounted and a vet was summoned.
It was hoped he could be saved but the injury was too significant and he was humanely put down.