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Ruby Walsh: It’s only a schooling session for Don Cossack at Thurles and beware the Min hype

by Ruby Walsh | January 13, 2016

The ‘banker’ hype has gone into overdrive since Min’s weekend win at Punchestown. Don’t get me wrong. He’s very, very, good but is he really going to be much shorter on the opening day of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival than he is now  – eight weeks out?

I’m not convinced the risk of backing him ante-post now will far outweigh the reward of backing him on the day when we know for definite that he’s a certain runner.

As for talk of the opening-day accumulator again…

It’s great for racing that one of our flagship festivals is already reaching the sports pages and not just the racing pages. But first, Min, Douvan, Faugheen, Annie Power and I have to get to to the track, before I can start dreaming again.

I won’t be treating it as an accumulator. I’ll be riding four horses to win four races and approaching it race-by-race. I won’t be worrying about the price of it happening either.

Although it would be nice to right the wrong of last year …

Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Don Cossack looks a penalty kick in the Kinloch Brae Chase 2.10pm that he won last year when beating Champagne Fever.

The fall in the King George VI Chase shouldn’t make any difference to him and Gordon Elliott is leaving nothing to chance by getting a confidence booster into him ahead of March 18.

Bryan Cooper though he had eventual winner Cue Card covered before he tipped up at the second last.

There’s no doubt he won have been competitive as Don Cossack, Cue Card and Vautour were starting to assert over the rest. But the fences are there to be jumped. but If you don’t get around – you don’t win.

His task on Thursday should be made easier by Rubi Light who will probably set the pace and make it some sort of a race. Wounded Warrior is the second-best rated in the race but is making his seasonal debut while Mount Colah isn’t good enough.

It should be no more than a public school for one of the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourites.

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I thought Indien Rouge has a good chance before Tramore’s card was abandoned and he still looks the one to beat in the first race at Thurles (12.40pm). I was due to ride him last Sunday but Barry Geraghty takes over now as he’s retained by JP McManus.

Indien Rouge is tough, stays well and while he may prefer more than 2m he gets the allowances for not having won a race and this looks an ideal opportunity on his first run in Ireland.

There’s only four runners in the Novice Hurdle at 1.10pm and Willie trains two of them for Gigginstown Stud.

Bryan Cooper has chosen to ride Monbeg Rose. She’s a course winner who left her bumper form way behind here when winning just before Christmas. She’s also won a point-to-point over three miles so the step up in trip to 2m 6f should suit and she gets the mares’ allowance.

I’ll ride Arkwrisht who won a pretty average maiden hurdle on bad ground at Tramore – but won it well. He seemed at one stage to be better on the gallops than he was on the racecourse but could have turned the corner now. There mightn’t be a whole load between them and they probably have each other to beat.

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There doesn’t seem to be a stand-out candidate in the Handicap Hurdle 1.40pm and I’ve chosen Tarabiyn over Verawal but I’ve messed up on them before. Tarabiyn is probably faster while Verawal shapes like more of a stayer. They’re very hard to split in a competitive race and if either reached the money it would be a good run.

English trainer Harry Fry sends over Bitofapuzzle for the 2m 4f Mares Novice Chase at 2.40pm and she looked very good on her chase debut at Exeter and last season won a Listed Mares Hurdle at Ascot.

The ground, track and trip should suit her and Queens Wild could be the best of the challengers to chase her home.

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