NATIONAL Hunt racing fans everywhere will be delighted with the news that eight-time Irish champion jockey Ruby Walsh returned to race-riding at Roscommon on Monday evening following a four-month spell on sidelines.
The Kildare rider travelled West for just one ride, 8/11 favourite Hail Ceaser for his father Ted in the Owen Dervan and Sons Hurdle but there was to be no fairytale ending as the market leader, who pulled very hard in the early stages of this two-mile contest, could manage only third behind Paul Flynn’s 4/1 shot Save My Blushes.
Walsh had been out of action since suffering a triple facture of his arm following a fall from Celestial Halo in the Aintree on Grand National day at Liverpool on April 4. Having undergone surgery for the injury, Walsh had hoped to resume riding in time for the recent seven-day Galway Festival but his surgeon, Bill Quinlan, advised him to give the injury more time and he delayed his return to the track by three weeks.
Having been riding out for his dad and Carlow trainer Willie Mullins over the past three weeks, Walsh is glad to be back in the saddle in good time for the remainder of the National Hunt season. Speaking after his comeback on Monday, he said, “While I had no joy tonight, it is great to be back in action. The injury was a bad one to get but you get used to frustration in this job.”
Walsh can look forward to yet another big season ahead with the powerful Mullins yard in Ireland at his back and Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat team at his disposal in the UK. Indeed, Walsh will be in action at Newton Abbot on Saturday for Nicholls where his mount will include the Andy Stewart-owned Classic Swain in the Lord Mildmay Memorial Chase.
Elsewhere, at Roscommon there was joy for County Meath handler Dermot McLoughlin, who struck with his first runner as a trainer when 25/1 shot, Ocean Bright, took the two and a half mile maiden hurdle under 3Ib claimer Robbie Dunne.
This grey filly by Cozenne was making her first appearance over hurdles but made light of her inexperience when forging to the front halfway up the run-in to beat runner-up Step Right In by a neck.
Former jockey McLoughlin, whose father Liam rode the great Arkle to his first success back in 1962 and only passed away earlier this month, was understandably emotional as he greeted his first winner in the number one berth. He said, “I’ve only had my license about three weeks and my father must have been looking down on me. She stays and gallops so we made plenty use of her. The ease in the ground was also a big help.”
Gordon Elliott is banging home the winners left, right and centre of late and he visited the winners’ enclosure following the success of 9/4 favourite, Shopfrontspecialist in the Tote Trifecta Rollover Handicap Hurdle.
Ridden by very exciting 5Ib claimer Keith Donoghue, Shopfrontspecialist went to the head of affairs at the third-last flight and ran on with real gusto from that point to hold the determined effort of Paul Nolan’s Run For Charlie by three lengths.
The earlier races at the Western track were all Flat contests with Tipperary trainer David Wachman and jockey Wayne Lordan combining to land a 48/1 double.
The Four Masters (6/1) started the ball rolling for the Goolds Cross handler when coming late and fast under a power-packed Lordan drive to claim the opening seven-furlong Auction Maiden. Long Time Coming looked to have this event in the bag when leading in the shadows of the post but Lordan conjured a late effort from his mount, who put his head in front right on the line.
Dainty completed the Wachman/Lordan double as the 6/1 shot overcame a 50-day break to land the 10-furlong Fillies Handicap. Clear from the start, this daughter of Storm Cat stuck to her task in good style in the closing stages to repel the challenge of runner-up Strandfield Lady, with two lengths separating the pair at the line.
O’Brien secures first group win
SEVENTEEN-year-old Joseph O’Brien, son of Ballydoyle trainer Aidan, has been hitting the heights lately in the saddle and he registered his first win in a group race when steering Beethoven to victory in the Group 3 Desmond Stakes at Leopardstown last Thursday evening.
O’Brien gave Beethoven a very polished ride to claim the one-mile event, sending the 2/1 favourite about his business from the furlong pole en route to a one-length success over runner-up Dandy Boy.
Beethoven is listed among the 51 entries for the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes back at the south Dublin track on September 4. There is speculation that Ballydoyle heavyweights Fame And Glory and this season’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco could clash for the first time in this €750,000 Group One 10-furlong event, which, if coming to pass, would make for mouth-watering contest.
O’Brien, who rode his first winner at the Foxrock track some 14 months earlier, looks a bright prospect as underlined by the fact that he rode four winners over the seven days at the recent Galway Festival.
The fact that he lost one of those Galway ‘wins’ when Luttrel Lady was demoted to second place in a subsequent appeal by the connections of first past the post Separate Ways, will do little to diminish the talents of O’Brien, who is clearly destined for bigger things. Perhaps when current Ballydoyle number one, Johnny Murtagh decides to vacate his position the powerful Coolmore operation may have a home-grown readymade replacement on their hands.
Top amateur Katie Walsh has enjoyed a tremendous year so far and she reached yet another milestone as Collingwood, trained by her father Ted and owned by her mother Helen, provided her with her first success against professional Flat jockeys when landing the seven-furlong Sharon Shannon Big Band Handicap.
Held up in the early stages, the 5/1 favourite came with a withering run through the field to strike the front at the furlong marker, before careering away to defeat Indus Valley by a length.