Ruby admits he'll be begging Willie Mullins to ditch plans to run Vautour in the Gold Cup

In the salubrious settings of the Keadeen Hotel, not far from the Curragh of Kildare, the great and the good of the ‘Hedge Hopping’ world came together to hear a few choice words from a few choice individuals on the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. A crowd of no less than 700 hung to the every word of an expert panel consisting of Ruby Walsh, Sir Anthony McCoy, Noel O’Brien (Irish Senior Handicapper), Rob Catterson (Paddy Power) and Oli Bell (MC) in an attempt to gain a punting edge.

If, by some bizarre turn of events, your invite got lost in the post, never fear. Here’s the top five things the Paddy Power Blog learned from last night’s Cheltenham Festival preview…

AP McCoy
  • People were beginning to question the credentials of Supreme Novice Hurdle favourite, Min. However, his rider, Ruby Walsh, quashed doubt and went as far as to say that Min is “a good thing to kick off the festival.” So there. Later, AP put Min in a festival charity four-timer, alongside Thistlecrack, Douvan and Limini.
  • AP reckons Thistlecrack in the World Hurdle is the bet of the Festival. “He’s the most improved horse in training” said the Champ, and he thinks he’s a cut above his rivals.
  • Ruby admitted Annie Power will be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle as long as Vroum Vroum Mag is on course for the Mares Hurdle. There’s nothing wrong with VVM at present, but as the Mullins yard knows all too well of late, horses rarely read the script. Ruby added: “Why would we leave a cert in the Mares behind us?” Also worth noting is that Ruby said Annie Power was better than any of the horses set to run in this year’s Champion Hurdle, but doesn’t rate the current challenger on the same level as Hurricane Fly or Faugheen.
  • Both AP and Ruby were very bullish on the chances of More of That. It’s still unclear whether he’ll show up in the JLT or the RSA but both said something to the effect of “wherever he runs he wins”.
  • Ruby said he would really, really, really, really, really, prefer Vautour to run in the Ryanair and will do as much as he can to convince owner Rich Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins to run him there. However, it looks likely he’s bound for the Gold Cup where Ruby will have to decide between Vautour or Djakadam (we’re guessing Djakadam). Will Vautour stay? Ruby thinks a shorter trip might suit better. Telling.

Words: Tom Nugent