There has been no better jockey in the modern era at riding Cheltenham than Ruby Walsh. Walsh has ridden 59 Cheltenham Festival winners and been top jockey at the meeting an unbelievable 11 times. Having ridden for Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls during his golden era, he is a man worth listening to. Punditry is Walsh’s new career after he retired from riding and his insight makes him very good at it.
Speaking at a preview night last week, Walsh has given his backing to the Henry de Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard for the week’s main event. The eight-year-old gelding was imperious when winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. He beat Royale Pagaille by 22 lengths and it was very visually impressive. That performance established himself as ante-post favourite for the Gold Cup and he had been at the top of the market right up until this week and Galvin has now taken over.
A Plus Tard looked well below form when beaten in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. Galvin was his conqueror that day which has contributed significantly to his market usurpation. Another factor has to be the poor stable form of Henry de Bromhead at the time as his horses weren’t running well at all.
Ruby Walsh believes that A Plus Tard can reverse the form on the big day: “I’d ride A Plus Tard. Galvin had a brilliant run at Christmas and A Plus Tard was in the wrong place the whole time and it’s very easy to turn that result around.” If Ruby Walsh suggests that positional factors and tactics were the cause of the A Plus Tard’s narrow defeat it would take a brave man to go against him. The margin of the defeat suggests that if the circumstances of the race had been only slightly different, we would have seen a different result. There is certainly plenty of credence to Walsh’s theory and a man with his level of expertise is certainly one you shouldn’t ignore.
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