IT’S been a winter to forget for Ruby Walsh. Everything was looking good in early November when he landed a big race double at Down Royal with Kauto Star and The Nightingale. Things took a turn for the worse in the next, though, when he fell from Corrick Bridge, broke his leg and faced an agonising four months on the sidelines.
However, Walsh is back just in time for Cheltenham and no other jockey rides this unique course better than the Irishman. He is the most successful jockey in the history of the Cheltenham Festival with 27 winners and has claimed the leading jockey award in five of the last seven years.
He had an extraordinary four days in 2009 when he won a record breaking seven races, but he still took the trophy last year with just three winners. In football terms he has the option of picking the best Manchester United and Arsenal players for his team, such is the power of the Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins stables, and I can’t see why Sportingbet are offering 13/8 about him taking the prize again.
Yes, it’s true that Nicholls doesn’t have as many bankers as normal but Walsh will be riding Quevega and Big Buck’s who should both win. Of his five leading jockey awards, four have come with just three winners and the firepower at his disposal means he will always ride plenty of placed horses. Barry Geraghty and Tony McCoy are obvious dangers, but I would have Walsh nearer EVS in my book, so he has to be a very decent bet at 13/8.
Sporting Index always have some interesting Cheltenham specials and I’m particularly keen on buying their meeting SPs quote at 340. It’s been a terrible winter weather-wise and the conditions horses are likely to face at Cheltenham are going to be very different to the ones they’ve experienced over the past few months. There have also been some high profile meetings cancelled, disrupting trainers’ preparations and I can see there being a number of surprise results.
There aren’t as many short-priced horses as normal this year which means the racing is very competitive. For that reason I’m also tempted to sell Sporting Index’s winning distances market at 102. The handicap ricks of old are far rarer nowadays and I expect there to be a number of close finishes.
Hurricane Fly is Ireland’s big hope in Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle and although I’m not convinced he’ll win, I do think he’ll be placed. Victor Chandler are offering 6/1 for him and Kauto Star to be placed in their respective races and that is pretty good value.
Kauto shouldn’t be ignored, he didn’t run up to form at Kempton last time, but he’s been there and done it, and I can see him running a huge race. Denman also has a chance, but I’m not sure the ground is going to be soft enough for ‘The Tank’.
Don’t forget that the Punter will be in City A.M. all next week and can be read at www.cityam.com if you’re at the course.
Ruby Walsh to be top jockey at 13/8 with Sportingbet
Hurricane Fly and Kauto Star both to be placed at 6/1 with Victor Chandler
Buy meeting SPs at 340 with Sporting Index
Sell winning distances at 102 with Sporting Index