Ruby Walsh says the occupational hazard of giving owners bad news is the thing that puts him off becoming a trainer when he eventually calls time on his riding career.
“The concept of training does interest me, I love that part of it,” Walsh said at the Irish Examiner’s Breakfast of Champions event at the Clayton Hotel in Cork city yesterday morning.
However, a significant caveat wasn’t long coming.
Asked by Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons what he’d consider the hardest thing about training, Walsh replied: “The disappointments. Ringing people to say, ‘I’m very sorry, you’re horse is lame’, ‘he didn’t work well’, ‘he’s sick’, ‘he’s a non-runner’, ‘more training fees next month please’ — the hassle of it.
“It’s easy as a jockey. You can walk away but as a trainer you have to deal with owners all the time. And training racehorses is a game of disappointments.
“I don’t like bad news but I certainly hate breaking bad news. That would be the problem with training for me.”
What about a role in the media? After all, Walsh is already an ambassador with Racing UK, who will replace At The Races as providers of live Irish racing from the start of next year.
“The broadcast media does interest me, whether I could do it enough to sustain my life I don’t know but I do enjoy doing that type of work. When the time comes, we’ll see what’s available,” the Irish Examiner columnist said.
However, the 38-year-old insisted the chance of having a deeper link with Racing UK when the channel replaces ATR wouldn’t be a sufficient carrot for him to call time on his riding career in the near future.
“I wouldn’t make me retire, no. It most definitely wouldn’t make me retire. It would be great to have that stability in your life but I think there’s an awful lot more riding to be done yet.”
Asked his thoughts on the implications of the switch, Walsh said: “I don’t think there’ll be a second channel and I don’t think it (Irish racing) will become secondary. I think there might be tweaks to the fixture list. You might end up having a meeting on a Monday instead of a Tuesday to get it front and centre but they’ll align to fixtures so that it works for everybody.
“Yes, it is a subscription channel but At The Races is part of your Sky package as well so you’ll have to change something there. You’ll have to pay for it alright. People are giving out but I don’t see the negatives. I don’t see massive positives but I don’t see negatives either.”
Walsh may be in the twilight of his career but his ambition remains undimmed.
“I always set myself goals,” he said. “I know they say you should write down your goals and that if you write down your goal you’re X per cent more likely to achieve it. I never tell anybody my goals, I never write them down because if I don’t achieve them the only one I want to know is me. I don’t want anybody else laughing at me.
“I keep them to myself but you have to have goals, you have to have targets, you can’t just wander aimlessly along hoping you’re going to be alright. I have aims, I have targets, some of them will be achievable and most of them won’t be achievable but we’ll keep chasing them.”
Walsh’s most immediate target is get back riding.
Yesterday he issued a positive update about his recovery from the broken leg he suffered in November.
His preferred option is to return the final weekend of this month. Option two is the first weekend of March but he added: “If I’m not back until the ninth of March so be it.”
Of course the date that matters most to Walsh is March 13, day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
Walsh would like to think Faugheen, second to Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle on Saturday, can get the better of reigning champion Buveur D’Air at Cheltenham but the realist in him knows the 10-year-old is up against it.
“He obviously ran way better Saturday than he did at Christmas when he was pulled up but that level of form isn’t going to be good enough to win the Champion Hurdle. He has to improve again. He just doesn’t look to have the same spark and zest that he had. He had it in November so where it’s gone since November I don’t know. We have to try and get it back.
“Buveur D’Air will be very hard to beat but you can’t be afraid of one horse. We have to go and take him on anyway.”
While some positives could be taken from Faugheen’s improved showing, Yorkhill was undoubtedly the big disappointment of the weekend, running deplorably when trailing in 80 lengths behind stablemate Min in the Coral Dublin Chase.
“He has disappeared out of the Champion Chase picture,” Walsh admitted of the dual festival winner.
“He’s been unbelievably disappointing this year and there’s no explanation for it. His work at home seems to be good, he looks well — if only he could talk, he could tell us what’s wrong but he can’t. He’s a disaster at the minute. He’s running nowhere near his level of form.”
On the flip side, Min now looks a very credible contender in a division that looks more than a little muddy.
“Min was very good,” Walsh said. “It was a great race to watch. Special Tiara went hammer and tongs from flagfall and Min was the only horse that was comfortable all the way through the race. It was a very good performance and I suppose he’s put himself right in the middle of the Champion Chase picture.
“Obviously you have Altior and Douvan but neither have run this season so there’s a question mark over the big two.”
And what about a banker for Cheltenham?
“Stormy Ireland in the Triumph Hurdle (a race for which she’s currently 8-1), I think she’s a very good. She won a furlong at Fairyhouse last month. She’s as hard as nails.”
And a big-priced outsider?
“Tornado Flyer (currently priced 20-1) in the Champion Bumper.”
Don’t say you weren’t told.
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