Friday, February 03, 2023

THE Dublin Racing Festival takes place in Leopardstown this weekend with it’s place firmly established as one of the best National Hunt racing here in Ireland, and even further ashore.

Who better to pick out the best of the action that former champion jockey Ruby Walsh.


Ruby Walsh has spoken out about some of the talking points ahead of this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival
Photo: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore have been incredible for our sport

It’s State Man and Vauban vs Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle. I think Pied Piper’s run at Christmas, he has so much to prove. It’s easy to put Zanahiyr behind him.

I think it’ll be a great race but who makes it? Who is the cat? Who is the mouse? Honeysuckle’s form obviously got a boost with Teahupoo winning the Galmoy, but he was entitled to win that race.

She is the champion. State Man has done nothing wrong this year, Vauban is going in the right direction, then you have Honeysuckle. I think it’ll be brilliant, really tactical, when they jump the second last you can throw a blanket over them.

With my Willie Mullins hat on, of course I’d love to see State Man win, but with my human hat on, I’ll shout for Honeysuckle.

I think Honeysuckle has been an incredible racemare. The De Bromhead’s and Rachael (Blackmore) have been incredible with their promotion and the popularity of our sport. Call a spade a spade, but they are incredible. Rachael and Honeysuckle put people on the gate, they do. We have all seen it. We will see it again on Sunday.

They bring extra people racing and that’s brilliant.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Honeysuckle is retired if she is well-beaten this weekend

I think if Honeysuckle is well-beaten on Sunday then I wouldn’t be surprised if she was wound down over the next six weeks and her next visit was to a stallion.

That’s a bit of a doomsday look, it could be different at about half past three on Sunday what the future holds for Honeysuckle. I’d love to see her go and win though. I’d love to see one of these be authoritative and go to Cheltenham thinking they can take on Constitution Hill.


Willie Mullins is a dominant trainer but the bigger question is where are the horses to take him on?

Of course you would love the competition to be more but can you blame Dublin for winning six All-Ireland titles in a row? Was it their fault they were just better?

Was AP McCoy bad for jump jockeys? He won 20 jockey championships in a row and often had them wrapped up by September. I looked at him as the level and that was where we had to get to.

I suppose you look at Willie Mullins, where he is in jump racing, the likes of Gordon and Henry are closing the gap but Willie worked his way towards this, he wasn’t handed it. He started  in Closutton with a handful of horses.

I know he had an education with a background in it as regards to learning from his father but he has worked to where he is now but how do you change it?

That’s a big question. I don’t know what the answer is.

Why has he become so dominant at these meetings? You said 66 entries is low for the grade 1s but that then raises the question of where have all the horses gone? To be fair to Willie, I don’t think looking at his yard and the races here, could he have even entered any more horses?

The bigger question to me is where are the rest of the horses? Are we breeding less? We probably are from the peak in 2007 but it hasn’t come down since 2012. Where are the horses?

Willie Mullins is like a club more than an individual and that keeps him at a high level

The difference is, teams come and go. That Dublin football team for example, they were always going to come to an end. How long will this bunch of horses hang around for Willie? Like Paul Nicholls, his came and went and he has been rebuilding ever since.

Teams come and go, whereas with a trainer like Willie, he seems to be re-stocking all the time so unlike, say, Tiger Woods who was dependent on himself, Willie can re-stock and it’s that what is keeping at that level all the time.

He is more of a club than an individual. Is he Bayern Munich? Is he PSG? He arguably is.

The different structure of English and Irish calendars could explain a lack of English runners at Dublin Racing Festival 

Traditionally, even before the DRF, you didn’t have massive English participation and if you did, it tended to be in the GC or the Champion Hurdle. Now, they did plunder more Gold Cups than Champion Hurdles but I don’t think anything has changed.

Maybe the creation of the DRF hoped it might attract UK participants but the UK structure is quite different and a lot of English horses will be built up from late October to Christmas, wound down and then built up again for the Spring.

Whereas the Irish calendar builds from Christmas onwards and that is where a lot of the prize money is in Ireland.

I think the different structures of the two different countries definitely doesn’t lend itself to having massive English participation at DRF but that is out of the control of the Irish authorities.

None of us will know if Galopin Des champs is a Gold Cup horse until he runs in it.

I thought Ahoy Senor was good on Saturday and Noble Yeats with the application of headgear would be a different horse by March. The big difference this weekend is that the Gold Cup is a different trip, as small as that may sound, that extra furlong up the hill is a long way.

I won two Gold Cups and if I could have got paid out at the last when I thought I was going to win, then I’d have probably won two more.

That last furlong in the Gold Cup is just so far, so taxing, even on Saturday if Galopin Des Champs wins the Irish Gold Cup, can you walk out of Leopardstown, hand on heart, and say he would definitely get three miles and a quarter? None of us can until the Friday afternoon at Cheltenham in March.

Constitution Hill is a jockey’s dream – it’ll be tough for any horse to get close to him

They’ll get close to him in the parade ring and at the start, what will happen in the race will probably be different.

What he has been doing is sensational, he’s such an uncomplicated horse. I’m looking at the Irish Champion Hurdle and thinking it’ll be very tactical, chuck Constitution Hill into the mix, then he can just bolt out in front and the rest can’t keep up.

He’s so uncomplicated and straightforward – he’s a jockey’s dream.



Ruby was speaking to Racing TV, so we’re used, please credit with: “Racing TV is the only channel showing every race live from the Dublin Racing Festival. This weekend only, you can join on their best offer – just €12 a month for an entire year (usually €31). Visit for details.”

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