KATIE WALSH and Nina Carberry, Ireland’s premiere female jockeys, will help spearhead North Yorkshire trainer Ferdy Murphy’s quest for Cheltenham Festival winners next week.
Walsh will ride the durable Poker de Sivola in Tuesday’s Cross Country race when she will be reunited, for the first time, with the horse that carried her to Festival glory a year ago.
In a pulverising denouement to the National Hunt Chase for amateur riders, Walsh beat Carberry, who was aboard runner-up Becauseicouldntsee.
However, Carberry comes in for the ride aboard Galant Nuit, a future Grand National prospect, who is one of the favourites for the Kim Muir on Thursday, a race for amateur riders.
Murphy says Walsh and Carberry are two of the very best amateur riders on either side of the Irish Sea. “Everything is on song – I’m delighted Katie and Nina will ride for the yard.”
Somersby will contest the Queen Mother Champion Chase next Wednesday rather than the Ryanair Chase a day later. Drying conditions prompted trainer Henrietta Knight to consider the latter for Somersby but the horse’s owner Camilla Radford is due to undergo chemotherapy on the day of the Ryanair.
With the Ian Williams-trained Weird Al – winner of last year’s Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby – opting for the Gold Cup rather than the Ryanair, it improves the chances of Murphy’s stable star Kalahari King as he seeks a first Cheltenham triumph after being placed at the last three Festivals.
Ominously, 15-times champion jockey AP McCoy was talking up the each-way prospects of Albertas Run, who is set to defend his crown rather than go down the Gold Cup route.
McCoy believes the race offers him the best prospects of Festival success after Binocular’s Champion Hurdle defence on Tuesday.
Big Buck’s and Grands Crus headline the 14 horses declared for Thursday’s World Hurdle.