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It's time for RupertPosted on Monday 1st February 2016 @ 14.15

With the Cheltenham Festival on the horizon, there is an ominous inevitability in the air.

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As yet another Festival nears, recent renewals have told us that the classy rider, who was named Rupert 'Ruby' Walsh, must typically spend the few weeks leading up to Prestbury Park's showpiece in a state of splendid bewilderment!

Born on 14 May 1979 in County Kildare and, following a constantly flowing tide of equine knowledge passed down by his father Ted, Ruby couldn't have dreamed that by 2016 he would have ridden a record 45 Cheltenham Festival winners - and rising fast!

For those of you who are fans of the pub quiz, Alexander Banquet was notably the first of them, in the Champion Bumper all the way back in 1998. In fact, that NHF success secured him just the one winner in March's showpiece that year, a total that seems quite unbelievable in the present day considering his recent domination - with Ruby having got on the Festival scoreboard on every single occasion since 2002. His best tally was in 2009 with seven winners.

Back to present day, how are things destined to pan out for the man who is without doubt the happiest rider in the business?

Min will storm home in the Supreme as the betting and recent demolition jobs suggest and, once the ball has begun typically rolling, the Rich Ricci juggernaut of fellow superstars Douvan (Arkle), Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle and Annie Power will stake their overwhelmingly strong claims at heavily reduced odds.

Who would blame bookmakers' insecurities, as this Grade One acca looks equally, if not more nailed on, than in 2015? I say that, but that is after the punting public have held their breath once again as Mullins' mare heads down to the last looking for a slightly better stride compared with the one we remember all too well!

So, with four winners looking a strong possibility for Day One does Mr Walsh step into the weighing room with exactly the same mindset as when having a spin around a slightly less high-profile meeting at Thurles? For a seriously classy and confident pilot such as Walsh it's fair to say he will have shed whatever nerves have plagued him by the time he's getting legged up on Min. I'm sure the anxiety of most jockeys tends to arise prior to the 'big one', ironically around a gaff track on board a particularly suspect jumping partner - "please don't step at this one, it's our Christmas next week!"

Without getting too carried away with the Tuesday, which has now become written into modern folklore as 'Ruby Tuesday', there is still an abundance of almost heavenly opportunity thereafter. Vautour dominating a Ryanair with the same ruthlessness as last year's JLT? Djakadam putting last weekend's tumble behind him to take advantage of Coneygree's absence in the Gold Cup line-up? And then there's any one of the 'Hills' owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, all of which have serious engines yet have possibly been named to confuse the hell out of the racing media?!

As the form suggests there is no way Ruby/Willie Mullins won't be battling with each other to be the face of Prestbury Park once more, especially now the legend that is Sir Anthony McCoy has retired. But with all eyes fixed on the finish line come 13:35 on March 15th it's expected a Ruby grin will take centre stage across Britain's tabloids the following day.

[Bobby Musson]

Article Posted on Monday 1st February 2016 @ 14.15

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312Universal Focus13/2
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Distances13 lengths, 2 1/4 lengths
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Distances6 lengths, 5 lengths
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