Racing: Ruby awakening as the son rises

Ireland's champion amateur jockey has his first ride at Cheltenham this afternoon. He has a notable lineage, but fails to follow at least one family trait, reports Richard Edmondson
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The Independent Online
Ted Walsh is Mr Ireland, or Mr Irish racing at least. He is a raconteur, horse trader, former amateur riding champion, Festival-winning trainer and television commentator. It came as a profound surprise when Mary McAleese edged him out of being Ireland's new President. Today at Cheltenham however there is evidence of Walsh's proudest posting as he proves himself a distinguished sire.

The family Walsh is represented for the first time by Ted's son, a godsend to headline writers and a figure who could have inspired numbers by Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers, a boy called Ruby.

This 18-year-old jockey is named after Ted's father, the last of 10 when the suspicion was his family was running out of Christian names. His birthday came on the feast of St Rupert, and so came the handle, later shortened to Ruby.

The trainer and horse dealer from a farming background in Co Cork begat Ted, who became a leader in the unpaid riding ranks and a scourge of weak- willed jumpers. Even today if you mention the name of Ted Walsh in a stable all the horses' heads duck down behind the doors of their boxes.

There is, however, more than one way to skin a horse and young Ruby has found a gossamer touch. Last year, he, too, became amateur champion of Ireland with 35 wins. This year he has already posted 25 and will almost certainly overtake Pop's record of 48. "He's been knocking round the yard all his life and he just has a natural flair for riding," Ted said yesterday. "I was maybe strong and aggressive, and, while he has the same hunger, he is more polished. Someone like Richard Dunwoody would be his idol.

"He's a better jockey than I was now, but then that's not too hard for him. He's better but we don't know if he's as lucky as I was yet. He's definitely a lot more refined and modern-day than I was." This is just as well as Ted's technique owed much to the times when we used flints to start our fires.

"He's 5ft 10 and a scrum-half for the local rugby team," Walsh added. "His ambitions are to be a professional jockey, but nature will tell him whether that is to be. He's not growing up any more, but he's a tall chap like McCoy or Dunwoody and it all depends on if he fills out.''

Much will also depend on how he performs on big horses and big racecourses. Ruby has already been allowed on his father's Triumph Hurdle winner, Commanche Court, which is the equivalent of borrowing your Dad's car for the first time, and this afternoon at Prestbury Park he makes his British debut on Slaney Sauce in the the Sporting Index Chase.

The nine-year-old will not be the most unfit horse in the field, but on this occasion he may have to give second best to Irish Stamp (next best 3.35), who ran a cracker behind Bertone at Ascot a fortnight ago. This cross-country course should hold no problems for Ferdie Murphy's chaser as he has been in the more life-threatening war zone of the Velka Pardubicka.

There are lots of fancy names represented in the televised handicap hurdle, but the unheralded I RECALL (nap 4.05) should go well. Opportunities exist, too, for the indefatigable Indian Jockey (2.25) and Kendal Cavalier (3.00), who looked a bit on the Teletubbie side before his victorious Chepstow reappearance last month.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

NAP: I Recall

(Cheltenham 4.05)

NB: Irish Stamp

(3.35)

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