unbeatable | 

Ruby Walsh's remarkable Cheltenham record set to be a durable gem

Top jockey Ruby Walsh

John Brennan

They say someone will come always come along to break your sporting record.

But Ruby Walsh could be hanging around a long time before anyone gets remotely close to his magnificent achievement of riding 59 Cheltenham Festival career winners.

The ten jockeys directly behind him in the all-time winning list are either dead or retired. Paul Townend, with the powerful Willie Mullins stable at his back, can look forward to a good run over the next few years.

But he has just 15 successes to date, and will turn 32 later this year.

Jack Kennedy might be the one to get close. The Kerry pilot already has nine Festival victories in the bag - and he is only 22 years of age.

Yet the magnitude of Kennedy's task is that he needs to ride three winners at every one of 17 Festivals to surpass Walsh.

By contrast with the jockeys, the battle to be leading career trainer at Cheltenham is an ongoing one between Willie Mullins and Britain's Nicky Henderson. Mullins leads 78 to 70 going into this year's Festival and, since he is six years younger than Henderson, you might think the Irishman would prevail in the long term.

But none of Henderson's adult children are showing any interest in taking on their Dad's business. And given that Nicky has an outstanding bunch of novice hurdlers for this year's Cheltenham, including Constitution Hill and Jonbon, you would think the 71-year-old Henderson is going to be training for another half dozen years yet.

By contrast, when 65-year-old Mullins does decide to hang up his trilby, he has a ready-made replacement as Master of Closutton, in his son Patrick. There's no sign of it happening soon, but it will happen one day.

Having two previous Gold Cup winners in the big race is quite unusual, but both Al Boum Photo (2019 and 2020) and Minella Indo (2021) are all set to go again on Friday.

Yet if you want a measure of Arkle's greatness, as he won three Gold Cups in 1964, 1965 and 1966, it is this - in his three triumphs, Arkle beat the horses who had won the race in 1960, 1962 and 1963. And also the two horses who would go on to win the Gold Cup in 1967 and 1969.


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