Castlekelly is new leader of the pack

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The Independent Online
Racing

It came as a surprise yesterday that the man in apron and baseball cap serving burgers at the Roaster Coaster was not Ted Walsh. Irish racing's most voluble figure does not limit himself when it comes to jobs. He commentates on RTE, writes newspaper columns, trains and deals in horses. If Walsh retired he would solve his nation's unemployment problems at a stroke.

Walsh is best known in Britain for his television work at the Cheltenham Festival and he believes that even Britain's foremost racing event can learn from the Punchestown equivalent that is running this week.

"You can be a bit more casual here," he said yesterday. "It's not as pompous as the Festival. There is far too much emphasis on the collar and tie at some places. If you've had a wash and you don't smell you should be able to come in whatever you want."

Many see impartiality as the bedrock of a broadcaster's craft, but this is a concept wasted on Walsh. After Dermot Weld's Definite Article went down by the minimum margin to France's Winged Love in last year's Irish Derby Walsh remarked on air: "He lost by a short-head. A short-bloody head."

Walsh is proud of his homeland and its sporting successes, but is self- effacing about his own achievements. He is remembered as one of Ireland's most enthusiastic jockeys, an amateur champion who could take rashers off his mounts with one swipe of the whip. "I was riding at a boisterous time and I was an average jockey who got a lot of success," he said. "I didn't have a bad old racing brain but you could say I was a bit old fashioned and agricultural."

Walsh had much to speculate on yesterday as he told viewers about a novice hurdle featuring Urubande and Castlekellyleader, who have emerged from the new-Arkle warehouse.

Urubande was attempting the unprecedented in trying to win at the third of the season's Festivals, and the toll showed in the home straight. He did, however, manage to finish in front of Go-Informal and Karshi, the British horses which chased him home at Cheltenham.

Castlekellyleader was the hugely impressive winner, despite kicking out some hurdles with disdain. The gelding embarks on a fencing career in October and it is not fanciful to imagine him as a force in next year's Sun Alliance Chase. The seven-year-old did not win on his hurdling debut, which is not unusual for an animal trained by Paddy Mullins. The old stalwart broke into a smile after yesterday's success, which is.

The visitors later lodged a rare success when Billygoat Gruff provided David Nicholson with his fourth career winner at this Festival in the Heineken Gold Cup, an event which had the equine attrition rate of Balaclava. Thirteen of the 21 starters were victims, two landing almost simultaneously on top of Conor O'Dwyer.

Nicholson outlined his pleasure and reported he was off to ignite a hooley. "I love coming to Ireland because you're always made to feel very welcome," he said. The champion trainer also has business back across the Irish Sea as Martin Pipe is ahead in this season's title race. He could not resist a dig at his old rival. "Martin Pipe said he wasn't going to come here with much because it doesn't count towards the championship," he said. "I don't mind that because I'm taking a few punts back."

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