A pragmatic Ruby Walsh has admitted that he may have made mistakes on Faugheen last weekend, adding: “There will never be a bigger critic of me than myself.”
The Cheltenham dream team set out to steal the spoils in The Morgiana Hurdle, only to be left wanting when Sharjah charged home in the highlight at Punchestown.
But Ruby admits no one was more disappointed than he was by the result.
“You’re never going to get any better if you don’t realise you’re making mistakes. I set out on Faugheen doing what I thought was right on paper, but it didn’t work out. You can’t live your life in hindsight and you can’t change what’s gone by. You can only go forward,” he said.
He added: “Faugheen had been showing plenty of spark at home and I thought there would be more of a turn of foot. Maybe Willie is right, maybe we did too much for the first mile of the race.”
So, has ‘The Machine’ got fuel in the tank?
“I still think there’s plenty of life left in Faugheen, whether it be over 2m4f or 3m. His form is way better over three miles and that’s the way he rode on Sunday – like a horse who just wanted a trip. There’s lot of good races over three miles as well,” Ruby said.
Asked if he felt he had gone too fast on Faugheen in the immediate aftermath of the race, Ruby said: “No, but that said, with hurdles missing in the back straight, when you have no jumps it becomes more stamina orientated. Jumping allows horses to get a breather. I didn’t think I had gone too fast but I thought we were going a good gallop. It was a Grade 1 race.”
He continued: “In hindsight, of course you would do something different. Likewise, when you win, you don’t do anything different the next day because why would you change it? It’s a simple way of looking at things, but that’s the way I look at them all.”
Ruby is familiar with the criticism that inevitably comes with the territory when he’s riding headline-grabbing horses, and he quickly puts his recent run of bad luck in perspective.
“When you’re winning, you’re a hero. When you’re losing, you’re a villain. That’s never going to change in racing. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
The previous day (Saturday) he won The Grabel Mares Hurdle on Stormy Ireland – the exact race that saw him fall from Let’s Dance and break his leg 12 months ago, triggering what would turn out to be a disastrous chain of events for the jockey.
The same injury would come back to haunt him at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, just days after returning to race riding, when he snapped his right tibia for a second time in a fall from Al Boum Photo in the RSA Chase.
“All I know is that I’m going a lot better than I was this time last year,” he adds.