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Mullins expects Walsh to make his return before Cheltenham


By Robert Jones

Willie Mullins is unsure when Ruby Walsh will make his competitive return but imagines it will be ahead of the Cheltenham Festival in a fortnight's time.

Walsh has been sidelined since suffering a broken leg in a fall from Let's Dance in November, but is now back to full fitness.

Mullins has also been without his second jockey Paul Townend since he sustained an ankle injury when Killultagh Vic fell at the final fence in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown earlier this month, but he could be back in the saddle for the next scheduled National Hunt fixture in Ireland at Clonmel on Thursday.

Speaking at a press event at his yard yesterday, Mullins said: "Paul rode out this morning for the first time and hopes to be back riding on Thursday.

"Ruby is riding out at home. He hasn't ridden out here yet - he says I work him too hard! I think he's happy just coming here looking at the team being prepared for Cheltenham.

"I was happy watching him the other morning. Stormy Ireland got loose and he went like Usain Bolt after her up the gallop. He's fit enough and he's well able to gallop anyway!

"He's fit, he's doing work in the gym. I haven't asked him when he'll be back. I imagine he'll ride before Cheltenham. I like him going to Cheltenham fresh, but maybe not that fresh!"

Meanwhile, champion jockey Richard Johnson reached 150 wins for the season when scoring on Looksnowtlikebrian in a novice chase at Ayr.

Tim Vaughan's seven-year-old was all out to old Bobbie's Diamond by three quarters of a length after a three-horse affair became a duel, from which the 4-9 favourite came out on top.

Johnson said: "It's fantastic, 100 winners is always the initial target but then it moves onto 150 which I'm delighted to achieve.

"There's not one person or one horse that can make it happen and I couldn't do this without the support of all the owners and trainers. It's a big team effort and I'm lucky to be a part of it.

"The Stobart Jump Jockeys' Championship title is in my sights but Harry Skelton and Brian Hughes are riding very well, so I'll just aim to stay healthy and keep riding winners - that's always the aim of every season and I'm lucky to have a lot of support and to be enjoying it."

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