The Paddy Power ambassador is more qualified than most on the topic, having won the Grade 1 contest four times during his career – including twice on the legendary Hurricane Fly.
Speaking on the latest episode of our ‘Countdown to Cheltenham’ podcast, Ruby was more than happy to share his wisdom ahead of the 2021 festival – where Paddy is offering non-runner money back on all 28 races so there’s no risk of losing out if your pick withdraws.
You can listen to the full show BELOW.
You need to be the complete package to win a Champion Hurdle. It’s trotted out every year that “this is the worst Champion Hurdle since whenever” but I don’t think I ever rode in a bad one. It might be of the standard of the horses that are in it, but it’s always competitive.
You do sometimes get certain horses that are way above the opposition – the likes of Istabraq who always stood out – but generally they are hard, fast races and you need a horse with a lot of pace.
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People get confused between pace and speed. You can have a horse with speed who is able to quicken up, but can they go the pace of a Champion Hurdle? They need to be able to jump and go, as very few horses come from a long way back. The winners tend to be close enough towards the front end, they can jump, they can stay and they can maintain a very high cruising speed.
A tough, willing attitude is vital in any racehorse – that is not just needed in a Champion Hurdle. They should have that ‘want’ to race and compete. Hurricane Fly was unique, while Faugheen was a different ball game. He won a steadily-run Champion Hurdle and showed a serious turn of foot off the front.
Annie Power just jumped and rocked along, and went a really strong gallop then outstayed the opposition. I was lucky enough to win four Champion Hurdles on three different horses, and they were all uniquely brilliant in their own different way.
I don’t think there is any extra pressure on Championship races. As a whole, pressure-wise for Cheltenham, it tends to be the meeting rather than individual races – it was for me, anyway. I was in a lucky enough position that I was busy, so once the day started that was the end of the anticipation and the pressure.
The days beforehand always seemed to be more tense than the actual days racing, so once it started you were just working in a constant bubble. You didn’t notice that you were going out in the Champion Hurdle or the Gold Cup, the Queen Mother or the Stayers’ Hurdle.
The pressure was there before the first race of each day though, as you waited for it to start. Once it started, it just seemed to roll on and on.
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL‘S BIG RACES
March 16 – 13.20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 16 – 15.05 – Champion Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 17 – 13.20 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 17 – 15.05 – Queen Mother Champion Chase latest odds and tips
March 18 – 14.30 – Ryanair Chase latest odds and tips
March 18 – 15.05 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 19 – 13.20 – Triumph Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 19 – 15.05 – Gold Cup latest odds and tips
Cheltenham Festival Day One schedule
13:20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y
13.55 – Arkle Chase (Grade 1) 1m 7f 199y
14.30 – Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f
15.05 – Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y
15.40 – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y
16.15 – Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 87y
16.50 – National Hunt Chase (Grade 2) 3m 5f 201y
*Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.
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