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Ruby Walsh: From hero to zero at Leopardstown and a 16/1 dark horse for Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle

by Ruby Walsh | February 9, 2016

It was a strange day at Leopardstown on Saturday. None of the big three Cheltenham fancies on the card in Ivanovich Gorbatov, Bellshill and Road to Riches ran to form and were all beaten a long way from home.

Even though it looked like Road to Riches was running a big race – I was confident I had him beaten on Valseur Lido with five fences to jump.

I went to the the last thinking I was going to win the Irish Gold Cup but Valseur Lido stumbled on landing and that was that.

At least on Killultagh Vic a couple of weeks ago I had time to adjust. It was only a couple of hundredths of a second – but it was still a warning. There was no red light with Valseur Lido. Once he banked to the left, I was toast. Hero to zero.

I walked through the betting ring under the stand afterwards. My body language didn’t make me the most approachable. One of the biggest chases of the season in Ireland was there for the taking. I was angry, disappointed and upset, and not really in the mood for a chat after it. I’d love to be able to laugh it off and get on with it but I guess I’m just too competitive for that.

I still had enough in the tank on Valseur Lido to think I’d have won – but you can never say for certain especially given how Carlingford Lough finished. I’d only ridden Valseur Lido once before when we won the novice chase at Punchestown over 3m 1f. He needs a trip and I thought then he’d be an outsider for the Cheltenham Gold Cup if he progressed on his rating this season.

Based on Saturday’s run, it gives Bryan Cooper another headache about his big-race mount in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband.

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UnSocial Media

There was a fair bit of noise on Social Media about the race.

But if I was to read or worry about what people say on Twitter about me I’d never leave the house never mind going out to ride in the next. People are entitled to their opinions, but I’ve no time for faceless abuse. I spoke to those closest to me and Valseur Lido’s connections about the race. After that everyone else’s opinion is their own. Most of the time the abuse blows itself out as quickly as it starts. It’s irrelevant.

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All I need is a miracle

One of the few consolations about getting it wrong on Let’s Dance in the Juvenile Hurdle was that there was less then three lengths between him, Footpad and Allblak Des Places. That’s only the difference of a good jump or the ability to handle the ground that made the difference.

They had all worked well at home (as had Bellshill) and Footpad just improved that bit more and stripped a little fitter after winning well at Gowran Park last month.

To be honest, I was looking for a miracle on Pont Alexandre in the Grade One Novice Chase when he went to the last with Outlander. But that was only going to be the difference between being second & third. Outlander travelled really well and he’s not a horse that does a hell of a lot out in front.

Betfair Hurdle, Newbury, Saturday, 3.35pm

This Saturday’s contest is ultra-competitive as always and you see a lot of the same entries from the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot turning up here. It’s almost like a series.

Philip Hobbs has a strong entry in the Betfair Hurdle on Saturday with Cheltenian likely to carry top weight. But there’s been plenty of chat for War Sound – who has a Champion Hurdle entry.

I’d love to ride Faugheen, Nichols Canyon or Arctic Fire with 11-7 in this so War Sound would nearly want to be winning on the bridle here to justify that entry next month.

His other entry Sternrubben has solid form and battled back well to dead-heat at Ascot with Jolly’s Cracked IT. That’s solid form and he must come into the reckoning.

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Paul Nicholls’ Modus was second in the Champion Bumper but was a little disappointing at Taunton in testing ground and is dropping back down in trip. Newbury could be testing too and that’s a worry.

Willie Mullins has a few entries and may run Dicosimo, who was Pricewise’s selection a few weeks ago. But 11-9 is a lot of weight to carry for a five-year-old in a race as competitive as this.

JP McManus’s Blazer got a 12lb penalty for winning at Leopardstown on Sunday and would have to carry the mandatory 5lb penalty here. He’d still be be 7lbs well in but it’s rare Willie turns them out so quick. And this is much more competitive.

But if I had to pick a progressive, dark horse it would be David Pipe’s Starchitect. He was fourth in the Fred Winter last year at Cheltenham and I was still battling for a place on him when falling in a Grade One at Aintree last April. He looks well handicapped on his juvenile form with a few of these in the race.

Although he hasn’t run yet this season – that’s a plus. Trainer David Pipe must think he’s on a good mark and hasn’t wanted to show his hand and he’s had half the season to get him fit at home.

One of ours that I think can out-run his odds is Ivan Grozny. He was much better than his finishing position suggest at Leopardstown last month. That was his first run in almost two years and is on the same handicap mark in England as he is in Ireland.

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