Paul Townend talks Punchestown Festival and Ruby Walsh
It was a big half an hour at Punchestown on Wednesday when straight after Ruby rode Kemboy to beat my horse Al Boum Photo in the Punchestown Gold Cup, he announced he was retiring.
What a career he has had. He has been a mentor to me throughout my career. He’s been very good and kind to me. Even outside racing he has made himself very approachable.
He is such an intelligent man. His knowledge of racing is second to none.
He has guided me throughout my career and hopefully he will still be there to do so in the coming seasons.
He is right up there among the greatest jump jockeys. He is the complete package. You just have to look at what he has achieved to back that up. He was an incredible jockey. He deserved all the success that he got.
I definitely thought there were a few more seasons in him but as he said himself ‘when the time is right, the time is right’ and it was for him.
It was great to see him go out on his own terms. He deserves that. He has had rotten luck the last couple of seasons with injuries but I am sure his wife Gillian and the girls are all delighted to have their Ruby back.
It’s both daunting and exciting to be taking over from him. I have been lucky enough to have been in that position a fair few times over the last couple of seasons as a result of his injuries.
So it’s not like I am jumping in the deep end. I’ve had a taste of it. I am looking forward to it.
With Ruby giving up I have switched some of my rides for the rest of the festival and on day four I have five mounts, all for Willie Mullins.
They start with Real Steel (4.20) who is a horse I have ridden all season. I thought he ran a good race in Fairyhouse where he was just run off his feet a little bit.
This is a handicap in which horses at or near the top of the weights have a great record. I won it last year on Kemboy and I think Real Steel has a big race in him. He has improved throughout the season and I hope he can take a bit of beating.
Ask Susan (4.55) has only had one run for us over hurdles and she ran okay at Fairyhouse for Danny. I think the step up in trip will suit her. We are still learning about her but she is off a nice mark and sure to be competitive.
I switch on to Melon (5.30) in the Champion Hurdle. I didn’t think he was done with when he came down at Aintree. He has been quite keen over the extended trip.
It’s hard to believe he has only won two races but been runner-up in two Champion Hurdles. If he brings his A-game he will run well again but he is becoming a little bit hard to win with, although he is competing at the highest level.
It’s still to be decided which horse from Tornado Flyer, who Ruby was due to partner, Royal Rendezvous, that I ride in the Champion Novice Hurdle.
Tornado Flyer (6.05) was a very good bumper horse last year. He is a horse we thought an awful lot of. He couldn’t have been any more impressive in his maiden hurdle win at Punchestown but never raised a gallop next time at Naas.
At the start of the season we definitely would have rated him one of our top novice hurdlers. He has to leave a very disappointing run at Naas behind him, which isn’t ideal coming into a hot race like this.
Royal Rendezvous (6.05) hasn’t run since October 2018 when he won in Galway. He has had his problems and it’s going to be hard taking on City Island and the likes off the back of an interrupted preparation. He will have to produce his best to get in the shake-up but I think City Island has a lot in his favour.
I like Cash Back too. I won a maiden on him and thought he was a horse for the future. But Breaken is the fresher horse, whereas Cash Back had a hard race behind Mister Blue Sky in Fairyhouse.
That was the deciding factor in choosing between the two but I don’t think there is a whole pile of difference between them.