Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Our Irish expert Tony Keenan looks forward to Punchestown with a trainer angle and a runner who may have slipped under the radar

  • Wednesday 24 April
  • Blog
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Ruby Walsh had a pretty good Easter meeting at Fairyhouse with three winners from nine rides including the Irish National winner Burrows Saint, prompting the following brief text exchange between me and my wife:

Her: Did you win?

Me: Doing no good.

Her: Ruby Walsh, how hard can it be?

These messages have a habit of coming after races like the Grand National but I’ve long since given up any hope of explaining that some of Ruby’s mounts might be overbet; a winner is a winner, right? Walsh may have been on the obvious one in the big race but his selection of Voix Du Reve in the Ryanair Gold Cup was hardly clear-cut, especially as he’d ridden the horse just once since Cheltenham 2016.

Voix Du Reve is hardly the safest conveyance especially for a jockey looking after himself these days but the decision was spot on as he came home five lengths clear of favourite and stablemate Real Steel, allowing he himself had been well-backed.

One does wonder if Ruby will pick so well at Punchestown next week and it is good time to dust off one of the best angles for the meeting: betting Willie Mullins-trained horses ridden by jockeys other than Ruby Walsh.

Punchestown is Mullins’ meeting with 108 winners there since 2010 and in that period his representation there has grown; there have been 100 races where he had a single runner but 166 where he had more than one and there were 17 cases when he had five runners or more.

Ruby has ridden 33 winners in that period, missing the meeting in both 2010 and 2018, with 27 of them being sent off favourite. All very obvious then, and many overbet. Consider his record versus that of all other jockeys riding for Mullins at the festival since the start of this decade:

Jockey Wins Runs Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/Expected
Ruby Walsh 33 130 25.4% -28.63 0.81
Not Ruby Walsh 75 472 15.9% +106.05 1.22

The market understandably latches on to what Walsh is riding but Mullins has so many horses in these races that the decisions his stable jockey has to make become very difficult, many of them likely coin flips or more aptly dice-rolls. Much of the value is with the other jockeys like Paul Townend and the various Mullinses, Patrick, David and Danny along with the outside riders they are forced to use.

Recent history has shown how Mullins peaks his horses for these five days and if anything that could be more notable this year when chunks of his season have been curtailed by fast ground.


Rashaan was one of the stories of the National meeting in winning the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle on Monday, an achievement more notable because he’d looked out of love with racing on occasion lately, not least when bad fourth of five at Clonmel on the flat last Thursday evening.

The form of his win can be knocked with Wicklow Brave falling early and Off You Go underperforming market expectations but there were plenty of positives to take from the second Not Many Left who had things against him in the race.

It could be argued that he was the best horse on the day over a trip that is too sharp for him with the pace less than frenetic, his jumping a bit slow over the trip. Despite this he had a marginal lead turning into the straight but clipping the top of the second last caused him to get squeezed out and lose his position which for a stayer in a slowly-run race should have ended his chance.

Yet he picked up well when switched back to the outer when one might have expected the faster horses to pull away, going down by a length and a half in the end. The least exposed runner in the field with only 10 runs, cheekpieces have brought improvement over his last three starts and he looks a horse that will improve with racing, Jessica Harrington commenting after his Huntingdon Pertemps Qualifier win in January that she would like to get another run into him before Cheltenham.

That lack of experience may have caught him out in the when a strong-travelling third in the Final but he took another step forward here despite things not having gone right and he rates a cracking staying chase prospect for 2019/20, his yard having gotten the knack with such horses recently like Sizing John, Our Duke and Magic Of Light.

In the shorter term however there is Punchestown and given he has had only four starts this season there is no reason why he wouldn’t run. He has two entries next week, the first of which is in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle on Thursday. That may seem a forlorn hope as he was officially rated 142 going into Monday but there is every chance none of the first three from the Cheltenham equivalent turn up and it may take less winning than expected.

Then there is the Ballymore Handicap Hurdle on the final day of the meeting where he would get to compete off that 142 rating (a pound higher than his Cheltenham third) and while the trip may be shorter than ideal, it could be hard for connections to turn down the opportunity to be well-treated, his mark likely to rise after this.

Tony Keenan's Irish Angle
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