Ruby Walsh: All smiles after Leopardstown as we count down to Cheltenham

The top jock on the Dublin Racing Festival and some new Cheltenham initiatives ...



I can see why Cheltenham want to do away with dual declarations – but it seems a little harsh to me.

They obviously don’t want horses to run twice in four days from a welfare perspective.

But if a horse is declared for two races and has a mishap in the first, like bolting on the way to the start or getting left behind for some reason – there’s an argument that it should be allowed to take up a second declaration, in that instance.

It was never that big an issue as only a few horses would ever be doubly-declared. It was just a mechanism for trainers to keep their options open, should something unexpected go wrong. It might be something they revisit in time.

The track also announced that they are to move the second-last fence a little further forward to give horses more time to get balanced on the approach to it. I know from first-hand experience what it’s like, as I aggravated my previous leg injury when Al Boum Photo fell at it last year.

That’s a safety and welfare issue and if it helps to reduce the faller rate – that’s to be applauded.

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It was some weekend at Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival and thankfully I came out on the right side withe the few choices I had to make.

Min, Klassical Dream and Bellshill all did what we hoped they’d do in the Grade One races – but it wasn’t straightforward.

Min did it well in the end, but seemed to get a fright when Castlegrace Paddy fell and was a bit sketchy over the next two fences. I was always going easier than Saint Calvados and quickened up well in the last half furlong.

He did what he had to do and has the option of the Champion Chase or a step up in trip to the Ryanair Chase. Both doors are open to him and seems to be as good as he was last year.

I’d a Grade One double on Sunday that started with Klassical Dream just edging out stablemate Aramon. He travelled strongly, jumped well and was very tough when he needed to be. I’d say he’ll appreciate softer ground in the future though.

Aramon didn’t help – but he didn’t help himself either. He lugged in on top of us but Klassical Dream showed a fair amount of guts to get back up and win.

They’re two good novices going in the right direction.


Bellshill’s win in the Irish Gold Cup was nearly a carbon copy, the neck and neck battle with Road to Respect going to the wire. We were at it from a long way out and both stayed on strongly from the second last.

I didn’t think I could go much faster than I was going and knew it was going to be tight from two fences. Thankfully, I came out on the right side.

Bellshill, Kemboy and Al Boum Photo are all going in the right direction and hopefully, they all make it to the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Relegate disappointed. She never really jumped well enough and gave away too much ground at her hurdles.

You couldn’t really see her going back down in trip, so maybe the 3m Albert Bartlett is a possibility. Whatever she does, she’ll have to brush up on her jumping.  The winner, Commander of Fleet toughed it out well.

Strong performances for Cheltenham:

Le Richebourg was very good and showed his liking for good ground. The Arkle Chase looks very open but we seem to have a good team going over for it.

Apple’s Jade was brilliant and will really light up the Champion Hurdle if she goes there.

She put up a solid performance and had us all beaten a long way from home. Melon was disappointing. He didn’t jump well and couldn’t even stay on to beat Petit Mouchoir.

Sir Erec was very impressive. He quickened up the tempo and kept going from five or six furlongs out. I was very taken with him.

Another of JP McManus’s string to impress was Off You Go in the handicap hurdle. He was very impressive and went by me on Uradel like I was standing still! He showed some turn of foot and will be interesting to see whether they go for the County Hurdle or Coral Cup with him.

English challenger La Bague Oi Roi too was good in the novice chase and Whisperinthebreeze put up a hell of a performance in the handicap chase. He went some gallop up front and to keep going to the line the way he did was impressive.

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