Ruby Walsh shocked the racing world on Wednesday when he announced his retirement from the saddle having ridden Kemboy to victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup – the highlight of the Festival.
Walsh was quite simply the best jump jockey of his generation and, arguably, the greatest of all time. He didn’t finish with the numbers of his friend and rival AP McCoy, but he was the ultimate stylist, a great judge of pace with a fierce will to win. Your innings well played sir!
Day 4 of the Punchestown Festival and the highlight is the Champion Hurdle which sees Nicky Henderson’s dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air (7/4 fav with BetVictor) bid to return to winning ways having been an early casualty at Cheltenham before finishing second to Supasundae – reopposes today – over an additional half mile in the Aintree Hurdle.
Marginal preference, however, is for Apple’s Jade (5.30) who will surely appreciate a return to a right-handed track, is versatile trip wise, receives 7lbs from the geldings and is taken to make all. The selection is 5/2 with BetVictor.
Barra (4.55) gets the vote in the listed Mares’ Handicap Chase for Gordon Elliot. The selection was weak in the market when third in a Grade 3 Mares’ Chase, returning from a 277-day lay-off, 10 days ago and Elliot has booked a very good amateur jockey to take off a valuable 7lbs.
City Island (6.05) did us a favour in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham back in March and is taken to follow up in the 2m 4f Grade 1 for Martin Brassil. The selection is 6/4 at BetVictor and has most to fear from Colin Tizzard’s Reserve Tank (3s with BetVictor) although the Aintree winner has a bit to find with the selection on a line through Brewin’upastorm who finished 3L second at Aintree yet was beaten almost twice the distance by the selection at the Festival.
In the Champion Hunter Chase I didn’t think we saw the best of Stand Up And Fight (7.10) at Cheltenham and he can recoup losses for Enda Bolger and Derek O’ Connor.
Breaken made a winning hurdles debut when landing the odds at Limerick at the end of March despite a shoddy round of jumping. One would imagine he has been well schooled since and he is a fascinating contender in the finale for Willie Mullins. A market move would be worth noting.
The vote, however, goes to the juvenile Gardens Of Babylon (7.45) who finished third in the Triumph Hurdle in March – form already franked – and runner up at Fairyhouse in Grade 2 company last time for Joseph O’Brien.
Hazel Hill (6.50) is the star turn on Hunter Chase night at Cheltenham this evening and is hard to oppose such was the ease of his Foxhunters’ Chase win here back in March.
In the 4m contest I hope to see a big run from Haymount (7.50) despite failing to finish in the Foxhunters’ here back in March. The selection finished third to Tiger Roll in the 4m NH Chase at the 2017 Festival when trained by Willie Mullins. Good ground is ideal, and he certainly wouldn’t want conditions any worse than good.