Walsh may steer clear of England after falling foul of new whip rule


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The Independent Online

Although yesterday's domestic racing passed without the stewards at the jump meetings at Aintree and Wincanton having to invoking any of the harsh new penalties for misuse of the whip, they are part of a debate that has yet to be resolved.

And the first losers may well be this country's racing fans, set to be deprived of the talents of Ruby Walsh, by common consent one of the most talented, effective and empathetic horsemen of his generation.

Walsh was vociferous in his condemnation of the new regime, which limits the number of hits, after incurring a five-day ban at Aintree on Saturday for striking Edgardo Sol, nose winner of the novice chase, nine times instead of eight. And yesterday the Irishman, first-choice for the leading yards here and in Ireland, those of Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins, confirmed that his visits to this country may be in future limited.

The next high-profile jumps fixture in Britain is on Saturday at Wetherby, host of the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase, an early pointer to some of the season's top prizes, and Walsh is considering his position in the saddle of the Nicholls contender Poquelin.

"I know I'm not going to Chepstow on Tuesday," he said, "and I won't be in Wetherby on Friday. I'll have to have a look at the declarations for the Charlie Hall before I decide whether I'm going to go and ride Poquelin or not.

"I'm facing a 10-day suspension next time I offend. I didn't offend on purpose yesterday and I won't offend on purpose ever again, so every ride I take from now on in the UK has to be extremely calculated. I have too many commitments for Paul and Willie in top races and at smaller meetings; it has to be worth the risk."

Walsh was riding again at Galway yesterday. "Here in Ireland, the rules are discretionary," he insisted, "and common sense is used. In England, common sense seems to have gone out the window. Rule are rules, I know, but the new ones seem to be trying to curb our natural instincts, the will to win."

As well as his ban on Saturday, Walsh suffered the disappointment of defeat on the hot favourite Master Minded, last of three in the day's feature chase. But he had encouraging words for supporters of the Nicholls star. "I felt the ground was that bit quick for him," he said. "It was his first run of the season, too, and I wouldn't be writing him off yet at all."

Even at this early stage of the jump season, there is anticipation of the Cheltenham Festival in March. Yesterday, at Aintree Champion Court, one of last season's smartest novice hurdlers, made amends for unseating his rider on last month's debut over fences with a clear-cut success over another smart chasing prospect, Saint Are. Champion Court's technique was still novice-like but his speed was decisive and he is now 14-1 for the RSA Chase.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Gabrial's Bounty (2.00 Leicester)

Has improved steadily with every run and, after a tardy start and a strong finish over an inadequate five furlongs last time, steps back up to seven for his nursery debut.


Next Best

Touch Gold (2.40 Redcar)

Well enough regarded to have held a Racing Post Trophy entry and should have progressed from his debut effort in a soundly-run maiden.


One to Watch

Though Willie Hall (William Amos) jumped sketchily early on his chasing debut at Carlisle, he improved as the race progressed and kept tabs on some decent novices.


Where the money's going

Long Run has hardened as favourite for the King George VI Chase, 10-11 from 11-10 with Paddy Power, in the wake of the defeat on Saturday of Master Minded.