Ruby Walsh to close in on jockey title at Punchestown

Jockey returns to ride at the festival 18 days after fracturing wrist in Aintree fall

Ruby Walsh will ride at Punchestown after fracturing his wrist 18 days ago. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Ruby Walsh will ride at Punchestown after fracturing his wrist 18 days ago. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

Just 18 days after suffering a hairline fracture to his wrist, Ruby Walsh returns to action with a pair of odds-on Grade One favourites at the start of a Punchestown week which could see him crowned leading jockey at the festival for a 14th time.

Only a fractured arm in 2010 has prevented a Walsh clean sweep of the coveted leading-rider award in the last decade but he has recovered in time from an injury picked up at Aintree to ride Vautour, who lines up in the €200,000 day one feature, the Boylesports Champion Chase.

Walsh’s participation adds another ingredient to the renowned five-day festival, worth €2.6 million in prizemoney, which brings the 2015-16 Irish National Hunt season to a climax and is expected to attract 110,000 racegoers to the Co Kildare track this week.

Rule The World enjoyed a much happier Aintree than Walsh and the Gigginstown Stud-owned Grand National hero is set to return to action just 17 days after his heroics over the big Liverpool fences in the Grade One Growise Champion Novice Chase.

“He seems fine, he’s certainly none the worse anyway,” Rule The World’s trainer, Mouse Morris, said. “You don’t know how much it has taken out of them until you run them, but he’s not giving us a reason not to run.”

Rule The World is rated a general 7/1 shot by bookmakers in ante-post betting lists.

Willie Mullins narrowly missed out on the British trainer’s title at Sandown and the potential impact, if any, of that championship assault on his Punchestown prospects this week will be closely examined.

“He still has huge strength in depth when you see how he’s able to switch Vautour to a €200,000 Grade 1 and he’s still an odds-on favourite,” Punchestown’s racing manager, Richie Galway, said.

Diverted

“Willie also has Yorkhill on the first day, and Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag later in the week, so there are four feature races alone where he’s likely to have odds-on favourites.

“He diverted some horses away from here but he’s still very strong and he doesn’t appear to be resting too many,” Galway added.

Nevertheless Punchestown’s authorities anticipate up to 60 cross-channel raiders taking part this week, including Cue Card, one of seven declarations for tomorrow’s Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup.

Ground conditions for the start of the festival are “good to yielding” and officials ideally aim to maintain that surface for the week.

“We will take it day by day to see if we need to water or not. But if we have to water it will be with a view to providing good to yielding ground,” Galway said.

“Some showers are forecast but with no appreciable amounts of rain over the next few days, although there could be more substantial rain over Thursday and Friday.

“It’s typical Ireland – sunshine and showers.”

Racing begins at 3.40 with a seven-race programme.

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