Ruby Walsh is the most successful jockey of all time at The Festival with 38 winners. Additionally, he has claimed the Boodles Leading Jockey Award at seven of the last 10 Festivals and heads into this year’s four-day extravaganza with arguably his strongest ever book of rides.
It all kicks of tomorrow with Vautour in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Champagne Fever in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase, but his big ride on Champion Day is indeed the champion Hurricane Fly, who goes in pursuit of a third Champion Hurdle at 3.20pm.
Last year, the 10-year-old became the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain the Champion Hurdle crown and, despite his advancing years, has shown no sign of decline in three starts this season.
He added a record-breaking 17th Grade One to his CV at Punchestown in November and extended that sequence to 19with victory over Our Conor and Jezki in both the Ryanair Festival Hurdle at Leoapardstown over Christmas and Irish Champion Hurdle at the same course on January 26.
Walsh said today at Cheltenham: “I rode Hurricane Fly this morning and he seems to be in good form. He has obviously travelled over a good few times, so he knows what it is and you would be more worried about one of the younger horses that hasn’t travelled before. We are happy with him and have got him this far, so fingers crossed we can get him the rest of the way.
“The Champion Hurdle line-up is what it is – it was never going to be any different. He has been here and done it twice before and if we are being clinical about it, the others have got something to prove in a Champion Hurdle whereas he hasn’t. It looks as if Captain Cee Bee will make the running, but there could be a curveball or two.
“I also rode Champagne Fever this morning and he seems well – I think we are fairly happy with all the horses. They look well and seem to have travelled well, so hopefully the next batch will travel just as well.
“The Festival is just different to any other meeting. I don’t know if it’s the crowd, the atmosphere, or the expectation, but there is something magical about Cheltenham.”