Ruby Walsh: Thistlecrack’s connections will be gutted but jumps trainers face these problems everyday

Another week, another high-profile Cheltenham contender bites the dust. The top jock tells it straight on the Paddy Power Blog.


Thistlecrack’s connections will have been gutted that he’s become the latest casualty in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

It just shows how hard it is to keep horses right. While it’s not a serious injury, these are the small things that can go wrong and derail the best-laid plans.

Trainers have to deal with these realities the whole time, particularly in National Hunt racing. They just tend to get highlighted more when it’s a high-profile horse like Thistlecrack who gets injured, or it happens before a standout event like the Cheltenham Festival.

We’ve had our fair share of reverses this season already, so we’re just hoping the rest of the team get to Cheltenham unscathed as there’s a little over a fortnight to go.

Seeing big-race rivals like Thistlecrack being ruled out, doesn’t really impact on us. Our intended Gold Cup runner, Djakadam, is in full work at home. But even their homework can be a roll of the dice as even the smallest injury or niggle can rule you out, especially this close to Cheltenham.

The main thing we try to do is not to panic and stick to the plan.

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When Annie Power and Faugheen were ruled out of the Champion Hurdle, there was a clamour in some quarters to switch Yorkhill to the opening day showpiece.

However, the decision was made that he would spend this season over fences, because that’s where we see his future. He’s not even entered in the Champion Hurdle.

Sure, you have to have alternatives if things aren’t working out as planned and I suppose Buveur D’Air is an example of that. He was originally sent chasing this season, but he’s going for the Champion Hurdle now.

But we’d be hoping that Yorkhill could turn into a Gold Cup horse in time, rather than a Champion Hurdle horse.

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Jezki v Yanworth

The 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki was a shade disappointing at Gowran Park last weekend – even if the ground was quite testing. Tombstone deserves some credit though as he was a good novice last year (finished fourth to Altior in the Supreme Novice) and was third to Jezki on his first run since then at Navan last month.

He just improved more from the run than Jezki did. Rashaan finishing just over a length off Jezki at the finish, throws a question mark over the strength of the form.

In the UK, Yanworth continues to have his detractors despite winning at Wincanton last weekend. But he’s come through two trials on sharp tracks like Wincanton and Kempton, that wouldn’t have played to his strengths and won both.

While Barry Geraghty has a decision to make, he’ll want to see how Yanworth, Buvueir D’Air and Jezki all get on in their homework over the next couple of weeks, before he makes up his mind.

Acapella Bourgeois’ win at Navan last Sunday attracted a bit of chat – but I’d be inclined to take the form at face value, having finished third on Haymount.

Sandra Hughes’ runner went a really strong gallop in testing ground and the further he went, the further he went away from the rest of us.

He was a very good novice hurdler last season and is transferring that to the larger obstacles now. He’s maturing, has learned to settle a bit better, is jumping better and looks an improver with a huge future.

Irish Derby dilemma

There was always going to be disruption when the Curragh announced its redevelopment plan.

The news that the Irish Derby will go ahead in front of 6,000 spectators at the Kildare track this Summer hasn’t gone down well with everyone.

However, the only other option was to run the fixture at somewhere like Leopardstown, but that doesn’t have a straight sprint track to accommodate the full, traditional, Derby card.

I don’t think Naas or Navan, while fine racetracks, have the capacity to service the type of crowd associated with Derby Day. Their facilities cater for the crowds they normally get – a Derby crowd could be three times that.

Until the Curragh work is complete, Irish racing may just have to take the good with the bad.

Thurles, Thursday

I ride Daisy’s Gift in the 3m mares novice chase 2.25pm and she has a good chance. She was second here to Westerner Lady of 2m 4f on her last start, so it looks a good opportunity for her.

In the feature race of the day, the Grade 3 Novice Hurdle 3pm, I ride Tin Soldier who won a 3m maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse beating Champagne Classic but drops back in trip here to 2m 4f. He may need to improve again to win at this level.

What do you think?