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Ruby Walsh: Willie Mullins is set to make my life difficult in the Gold Cup, while Annie Power continues to do everything right

Top jockey Ruby Walsh gives us the lowdown two weeks ahead of the Cheltenham Festival

Vautour or Djakadam in the Gold Cup? It's a tough choice for Ruby...

A light-hearted comment at a Cheltenham preview night in the Keadeen Hotel seems to have come back to haunt me.

I said I was trying to persuade Willie Mullins to send Vautour to the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase rather than the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but it was just a bit of fun.

It was more a case of me trying to make my life easier as it’s probably going to come down to me choosing between Djakadam and Vautour in the Friday feature.

It would make things rosy in Ruby’s world if they don’t clash! But I can’t see it happening.

Unfortunately life isn’t that straightforward and I’ve still a decision to make on my Gold Cup mount. It was the same when I had to pick between Kauto Star and Denman when I was riding for Paul Nicholls.

Gordon Elliot made a good point at his pre-Cheltenham stable tour that Djakadam (below) is arguably the horse to beat. His point was that last year’s winner Coneygree misses the race through injury, and Djakadam was second, so he’s a proven stayer at Cheltenham. Looking at the main protagonists you can see Gordon’s point.

There are question marks over Don Cossack, Don Poli, Cue Card, and Vautour.

Their connections believe their horse stays but none can say for definite until they’ve tried. Out of the main hopes Don Poli probably looks the most guaranteed to get the trip as he won the RSA Chase over 3m 1f at Cheltenham last year. Don Cossack has won over 3m 1f around Punchestown and Aintree, but they are flat tracks. The 3m 2f trip around Cheltenham is a different story altogether.

But then if you go on ratings – Don Cossack is the one to beat. Whatever stat you look at, and depending what way you want to look at it, you could come out with a different Gold Cup winner every time. And that’s the beauty of racing. You can look at many things in many ways, and there’ll be loads of different opinions which people are entitled to. Nobody will know until the race is run however. You can make a strong case for an awful lot of the runners in this year’s Gold Cup.

Fortunately I don’t have to attend many preview nights in the run-up to the Festival. That one with AP McCoy in the Keadeen Hotel was good craic but I don’t do many. The nights are entertaining and can be informative for punters, but as a jockey you have your own opinion and whether it’s right or wrong – more often than not you’re wrong – that’s what you stick to. In any walk of life you have to form your own opinion and stick to your guns.

Luckily everything seems to be going well now, as we’re just under two weeks out from the start of the Festival. The horses are all in good form and coming along nicely in their work. There’s been a good few setbacks in the last few weeks, losing Faugheen, Arctic Fire and Killutagh Vic, but hopefully that’ll be the last of the bad luck. All the horses still have a little more galloping to do and a bit more jumping, so every day is a risk. But that is the nature of sport, and these horses are major athletes. It’s the same when footballers or sprinters train. The risk of injury is always there. Fingers crossed they all get through their preparations.

Annie Power had a run a fortnight ago and now she’s back out doing fast work at home. She’s in very good order and we’re very happy with her. The final decision on a possible supplemented entry for the Champion Hurdle won’t be made until the last minute on Wednesday, March 9.

But at the moment everything is going right for her and for the yard and that’s all you can ask for.

What do you think?