By Andy Stephens
Ruby Walsh insists that his four-month absence through injury will not be detrimental to the horses he rides at the Cheltenham Festival next week.
The winningmost rider at The Festival, out of action since mid-November after breaking his right tibia, will again have a plethora of excellent rides at the four-day meeting, starting with Getabird in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
He revealed on Racing UK on Tuesday that his biggest fear is not rustiness, or that he has not ridden some of the horses he will be riding in races, but that he may be “too sharp and over eager” once the action gets under way a week from now.
Before that he is eyeing a potential return for Willie Mullins at Thurles on Thursday, where Mullins has eight runners engaged.
Six of those are in the two maiden hurdles on the card plus he has a couple more in the bumper that will conclude the action.
“I was hoping to ride last weekend but the weather put a halt to that,” Walsh said. “We’ve several meetings rearranged for Ireland this week but what’s going to happen is a bit uncertain.
“Hopefully I’ll be back Thursday or Friday. The outlook for Thurles seems better than than Navan. I’ve no idea what I might be riding but Willie has a couple of entries in the maiden hurdle, so I imagine those.”
The meeting at Navan was abandoned later in the day.Walsh will be hoping to add to his 56 Cheltenham Festival winners (PA)
The 38-year-old, top rider at The Festival on 11 occasions, has been riding out for almost three weeks.
“I rode out at Willie’s last weekend - it was all hands to the wheel Saturday and Sunday, yesterday and this morning. And before that I’d been riding out for Dad two and a half weeks.”
He dismisses any suggestion that he will not be at his peak next week for the biggest meeting of the year.
“My only worry is that I may be too sharp, may be a bit over eager,” he said. “At the end of the day the horse has to do the running, I only have to ride them.
“It’s (been a case of) risk versus reward. I suppose for me for the past 15 and a half weeks the reward has always been the Supreme, so it’s how many risks do you take (before)? Every time you ride in a race you are taking a chance.
“You have to balance how many risks you are going to take before you get the ultimate reward and for me that’s always been to walk out for the Supreme Novices’. I’ve always been a bit careful in the past and I won’t be any different this year.”
William Hill say there they have seen support for Willie Mullins to be the top trainer at The Festival and he is now Evens from 5-4. Gordon Elliott a 2-1 shot, with Nicky Henderson 9-4.
Meanwhile, Walsh is 4-6 with Hills to be top jockey at the meeting and is 5-2 to have six or more winners. He is 11-8 to have four or five, and 6-4 three or less.
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