Ruby Walsh is relishing his strong book of rides at the Cheltenham Festival headed by Hurricane Fly, Quevega, Big Buck’s – and hopefully Kauto Star.
He has already amassed a total of 32 Festival winners, overhauling two years ago the record of 25 set by the late Pat Taaffe.
The latter is remembered for his association with three-times Gold Cup hero Arkle and Walsh has built up a similar relationship with Kauto Star.
They have already won two Betfred Gold Cups, but their prospects of going for a third depend on whether the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding recovers well enough from a schooling fall to take his chance.
“I hope Kauto Star gets there 100%, but whether he’ll win or not he’ll be a great ride,” Walsh told Racing UK.
“Realistically, I think over that trip Long Run will be very hard to beat. It’s not Cheltenham that suits Long Run, it’s the trip.”
He gets the leg up on Kauto Star’s half-brother Kauto Stone in the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase and is expecting a big run.
“I’ll probably ride Kauto Stone in the Champion Chase and I think he’ll finish second,” he said.
Walsh, who has the pick of rides from the Nicholls team and Irish trainer Willie Mullins, took the Stan James Champion Hurdle on Hurricane Fly for the latter last year.
And the Mullins stable star is a hot favourite to repeat the trick on Tuesday week.
“He was a really good winner last year, but probably travelled a bit too keen for me on the day,” Walsh said.
“Luckily enough, he was good enough to get away with it. He’s been good ever since and fingers crossed he gets there in the same sort of form.”
Walsh reports Quevega from the Mullins camp to be in fine shape as she tries to win the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle for the fourth year running.
“She’s in good nick. I schooled her last week and she jumped well. She’s been working well,” he said.
“She’s a bit of a lady. Willie looks after her and she’s in good old form at home. Obviously she (Unaccompanied) would be a danger if she runs. She beat Thousand Stars at Christmas and she’d be in there with a challenge.”
The Nicholls-trained Big Buck’s also seeks to land the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for a fourth time, with Walsh full of praise for the stayer who goes for his 16th win in a row.
“He’s a very good horse. The more winning he has done, the easier he is to ride,” he said.
“You definitely wouldn’t get off him. He used to stop when he got to the front and he used to idle – he’s not like that anymore. He’s an unbelievable stayer.”
Walsh is hopeful Nicholls’ Al Ferof can give the exciting novice Sprinter Sacre a race in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy.
“He likes good ground, he schooled last week and he’s in great form,” Walsh added.
“It does hinge on Sprinter Sacre, who has looked breathtaking. If I can keep on his tail, there’ll be nothing finishing faster than Al Ferof.”