It must have been very tough for the hugely talented Ruby Walsh to sit on the sidelines for four months following his fall at Down Royal in November in which he sustained a broken leg, and watch high-class horses trained by Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins win for other jockeys when under normal circumstances he would have been on board, writes Elliot Slater.
Despite returning to race riding just a few days before the biggest National Hunt meeting of them all, Walsh was a hot favourite with the bookies to end the fixture as top jockey, a position he had fully justified by the end of the first of the four day fixture, having ridden a stunning 74/1 treble, the centrepiece of which was his brilliant ride on Hurricane Fly to win the Stan James Champion Hurdle a victory in it self for horse racing Ireland.
The day started in the best possible fashion for Walsh when he delivered Paul Nicholls’ Al Ferof (10/1) from off the pace to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in grand fashion from Spirit Son, wiping away any doubts on the part of the betting public that Ruby was back to his best. He rode a similar race on Hurricane Fly (although the Mullins horse travelled beautifully throughout), and having produced the Montjeu gelding to nose ahead of Peddlers Cross at the last, Walsh then showed his strength in the saddle in driving out his willing partner to a famous length-and-a-quarter success over Donald McCain’s brave runner-up.
Back in the saddle an hour later aboard another Mullins-trained hotpot, the hugely popular mare Quevega (5/6f), Walsh enjoyed possibly the easiest victory scene at the Festival for many a long year, leading on the bridle off the home turn in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle and sauntering clear whilst looking around for non-existent dangers. Quevega may go next for the Aintree Hurdle and go head-to-head with Peddlers Cross.
The racing tips for today are sure to feature Ruby Walsh again on a regular basis. All the pain and frustration of the winter will now be forgotten by Ruby as he once again confirmed his mantle of ‘King of Cheltenham’ with a stunning day’s work exemplifying his exceptional talent in the saddle.