Ruby Walsh celebrates with trainer Paul Nicholls after winning a third World Hurdle on Big Buck’s last year (David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images)
KILDARE NATIVE RUBY WALSH will be carrying more than his fair share of Irish money this week, as per usual. When you look at his list of rides over the next four days, you can see why.
The superstar trio of Hurricane Fly, Quevega and Big Buck’s have all been tipped up as big festival bankers this week, while the casual punters’ fivers and tenners will pile on dual Gold Cup winner Kauto Star come Friday afternoon. Walsh also has rides on Al Ferof and Boston Bob, both of whom could cause upsets.
With 32 Festival winners under his belt already — more than any other jockey — it’s easy to see why Walsh is a tiny 4/7 to be crowned top jockey for a seventh time on Friday afternoon.
Top chances: Hurricane Fly (Tues, 15.20); Quevega (Tues, 16.40); Big Buck’s (Thurs, 15.20); Kauto Star (Fri, 15.20)
Barry Geraghty, wearing the colours of Arkle hopeful Sprinter Sacre, speaks to the media (Neil Tingle/PA Archive/Press Association Images)
If Kildare’s favourite son doesn’t take home the crown, the honour might well fall to a Meath man — Barry Geraghty.
Geraghty’s most successful year in the Cotswolds came in 2003 when he took home the champion jockey title with five winners, including the legendary Moscow Flyer in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
This year, he partners one of the Festival’s hot things in Sprinter Sacre. Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old has only run three times since his switch to chasing, but he’s been so impressive that punters have waded in to make him the 5/6 favourite in a competitive Arkle.
The rest of Geraghty’s week is littered with brilliant chances. Can he topple Ruby?
Top chances: Sprinter Sacre (Tues, 14.05); Simonsig (Weds, 14.05); Finian’s Rainbow (Weds, 15.20); Riverside Theatre (Thurs, 14.40)
AP McCoy celebrates after winning the Champion Hurdle on Binocular in 2010 (Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport)
AP McCoy hasn’t been top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival since the second of his back-to-back wins in 1998. Although he has fancied chances in Supreme Novices’ favourite Darlan and former Champion Hurdle winner Binocular, his list of rides isn’t quite as star-studded as that of Walsh or Geraghty.
Of course, AP has turned plenty of also-rans into Cheltenham contenders over the year. Who can forget his magical ride on Wichita Lineman in 2009, a horse who looked dead and buried until McCoy drove him on to the finishing line?
His 25 Cheltenham winners include two Champion Hurdles, a Gold Cup and a Champion Chase but this time around, the quality horses might not be there for AP.
Top chances: Darlan (Tues, 13.30); Binocular (Tues, 15.20); Alberta’s Run (Thurs, 14.40)