By Andy Stephens
Ruby Walsh says Douvan is back to his best for the new jumps campaign and is also positive about Faugheen reclaiming his Champion Hurdle crown.
Walsh made his comments when taking part in a live question and answer session on Racing UK’s Facebook feed.
Nothing was off limits and the multiple champion ploughed through about 50 questions - ranging from his best ante-post advice for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival to what his favourite cheese is.
Douvan lined up for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March seeking a 15th successive win. However, he trailed home seventh after being sent off at 2-9 and was subsequently found to have suffered a stress fracture in his pelvis.
The seven-year-old has been absent since but when Walsh was asked if he was back to his best, he replied: “He looks it at home on the gallops. He looks spectacular, so hopefully he is.”
On the prospect of Douvan and the outstanding Altior one day crossing swords, he added: “I’d imagine if both horses stay fit and sound, and end up in Cheltenham in March, they will clash in the Champion Chase. Can I see them clashing before that? Probably not.”
Altior is a top-priced 6-4 for the Champion Chase, with Douvan 100-30 with SkyBet.
When asked “what would be your ante-post bet for Cheltenham 2018?” there was no sitting on the fence or speculating about this or that. Instead, Walsh offered a succinct one-word answer. Faugheen.
The 2015 Champion Hurdle winner, beaten only once in 13 starts, has been on the sidelines for 21 months but later another Facebook returned to the theme and enquired “does Faugheen win the Champion Hurdle?”
Ruby replied: “I most certainly hope so.” The nine-year-old is a general 8-1 chance.
Walsh has suffered several near misses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup since last winning it aboard Kauto Star in 2009.
Asked who might win this season’s renewal, he said: “I’d love to think I will. Djakadam, Yorkhill or Bamako Moriviere. I don’t mind which one, as long as I’m riding him.”
However, a programme for Yorkhill has yet to be finalised. Walsh said the JLT Novices’ Chase winner was “great” but asked about plans added: “I don’t honestly know. I haven’t discussed it with Willie yet.”
Might Bite, trained by Nicky Henderson, is heading down the Gold Cup route and when Walsh was asked what rival horse he would like to ride he said without hesitation: “I’d love a go on Might Bite. I must say I’ve been incredibly impressed by him.
“I think he’s a wonderful horse. His performance in the RSA was spectacular and his Feltham run was incredible. I think he will be hard beat in the King George.”
Past glories with such as Kauto Star, Hurricane Fly, Big Buck’s and Annie Power were revisited.
When asked “who is the best horse you have ever ridden?” the 38-year-old offered a two-part return: “Kauto Star over fences; Hurricane Fly over hurdles.”
What about Big Buck’s another Facebook user said, causing him to ponder for a moment. “That a very good question,” Walsh said, before adding: “I don’t think Big Buck’s would have won a Champion Hurdle but Hurricane Fly might have won a Stayers’ Hurdle.”
Walsh was also cheekily asked which of his weighing room colleagues was “longest in the shower” but did not seem to detect the hidden meaning. Either that, or you would not want to play poker against him because he kept a very straight face
You will find the answer below.
Ruby Walsh on Racing UK’s Facebook Live: A selection of questions and answers:
If you weren’t a jockey, what would you have wanted to be?
I would have like to have been an architect. I would never have had the capabilities or got far enough in in University but there’s something about architecture that has always intrigued me.
What about a recipe book - what I like to eat but can’t eat?
I don’t struggle that badly with my weight - I can pretty much eat whatever I like.
What’s your favourite cheese?
Cheddar. I also like a bit of Brie.
What’s your favourite chocolate bar?
I move around. I can eat the same one for six weeks, then get sick of it. I’m into Oreos at your moment.
What did you have for breakfast?
I don’t eat breakfast. I have coffee and then lunch instead.
Will Douvan take on Altior?
I’d imagine if both horses stay fit and sound and end up in Cheltenham in March they will clash in the Champion Chase. Can I see them clashing before that? Probably not.
Was it tough to make 10st 5lb on Total Recall yesterday?
No, 10st 5lb is not too bad for me. Below 10st 3lb it starts getting a bit more difficult.
Is Min a two-miler or could he be stretched out over further?
His style of racing suggests he’s a two-miler. He will have to improve to compete with the two-milers at the moment, so he may end up going further.
What’s going to win the Gold Cup?
I’d love to think I will. Djakadam, Yorkhill, Bamako Moriviere. I don’t mind which one,as long as I’m riding him.
How is Yorkhill?
Yorkhill is great.
What’s the aim for Yorkhill this year?
I don’t honestly know. I haven’t discussed it with Willie yet but we’ll find out.
Douvan: Back to best?
Looks it at home on the gallop. He looks spectacular, so hopefully he is.
What would be your ante-post bet for Cheltenham 2018?
Does Faugheen win the Champion Hurdle?
I most certainly hope so.
Faugheen and Douvan ante-post for Cheltenham 2018?
I wouldn’t put you off.
Thoughts on Might Bite?
I think he’s a wonderful horse. His performance in the RSA was spectacular and his Feltham run was incredible. I think he will be hard beat in the King George.
Any horse from the Flat you would like to ride over hurdles?
I’d love a go on Order Of St George. He’d do.
Explain the feeling when falling at the last with the race in the bag.
Would you have won the World Hurdle on Golden Cross?
I don’t think so, no. I think Johnny Murtagh gave him a great ride.
Who is the best horse you have ever ridden?
Kauto Star over fences; Hurricane Fly over hurdles.
You’ve said the Hurricane Fly was the best hurdler you’ve ridden - what about Big Buck’s?
That a very good question. I don’t think Big Buck’s would have won a Champion Hurdle but Hurricane Fly might have won a Stayers’ Hurdle.
Favourite Kauto Star moment?
Winning the first Gold Cup on him. That was a special day in my life.
Who did you prefer riding - Big Buck's or Kauto Star?
I thoroughly enjoyed riding both of them. They were two different challenges; two wonderful horses and I’m not picking between one or the other.
How is Annie Power?
She’s wonderful, in foal to Camelot. She looks a million dollars. I think she’s due in February or March - I’m not sure, but she looks great.
Could Un De Sceaux run in the King George?
Is there a race you’ve never won but would like to win?
Yes, the Albert Bartlett would do nicely.
Do you follow much of the Flat season?
I follow a fair bit. I think Enable is incredible and thought Frankie [Dettori] was brilliant on her in the Arc - he kept it so simple. It was a great ride to watch.
Would you have your money on Enable or Winx?
I don’t know. It would be fascinating to see - a great spectacle - but I don't think it will ever happen.
If you could ride Moscow Flyer or Douvan over two miles at Cheltenham, who would you ride?
If you asked Barry Geraghty he would say Moscow Flyer. If you were asking me I’d say Douvan - simple as that.
Has your father got any good horses coming out?
I think he has a lovely horse belonging to JP McManus called Any Second Now. He’s a gorgeous horse.
Will you be riding a little more in the UK this jumps season?
It depends on what Willie sends.
Did you enjoy working more with Paul Nicholls or Willie Mullins?
I’ve loved working for them both - they are both brilliant trainers, but when i was coming through the airport at 6.30am I certainly don’t miss the travelling.
If you could ride in any Flat race, which would you choose?
I would love a go in the Melbourne Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Arc and the Japan Cup. I’d love a go at any one of those.
Will Poet Power win the first (2m 3f maiden hurdle) at Galway tomorrow?
I think she will struggle to beat Poli Roi.
And finally...which jockey is the longest in the shower?
David Mullins or Bryan Cooper, one of them young lads that are into themselves.