Ruby Walsh is far from nervous as Kauto Star makes his seasonal debut in the JNwine.com Champion Chase on the second day of the Down Royal Festival.
After Kauto’s fall in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham last March, the jockey is hoping that everything goes according to plan today.
“I'm really looking forward to it. He's an incredible horse and has shaped my career. He's a once-in-a-lifetime horse and anything he does now just adds to his illustrious list.
“Down Royal is a fine track. (trainer) Paul (Nicholls) has him in great shape and he's been schooling really well.
“We want to put the Gold Cup and the fall behind us, get a good round of jumping and a good performance.”
Walsh continued: “Riding Kauto Star is a privilege and I can't wait.
“I am never nervous now as the horse is a legend and has done everything asked of him. Naturally, I will be anxious that nothing goes wrong but he has schooled well.
“Kauto is the best I have ridden and his achievements have been something special.
“There is no reason why he can’t win the King George VI Chase at Kempton for a record fifth time.
“I love all the buzz that goes with big races including this one at Down Royal,” he said.
China Rock, a winner at Punchestown earlier this season when defeating Sizing Europe — another contender today — represents Mouse Morris who won this race with Foxchapel King back in 2001, the third year of this festival.
There will be some local enthusiasm for Killyglen, trained by Larne’s Stewart Crawford.
Killyglen was second at Thurles recently and enjoyed a successful campaign in England under J Howard Johnson.
However, many will view Sizing Europe, who lacked for fitness in that previous outing, as the obvious danger to Kauto.
Walsh and Nicholls, meanwhile, have their eyes on a double today as they also expect a big run from The Nightingale in the Ladbrokes Chase which Nicholls has won for the last two years.
The Nightingale was victorious in the Pendil Chase at Kempton and clearly has a lot going for him in a race which sees a major attack from Irish trainers Noel Meade and Willie Mullins, both of whom have a top class record at this particular meeting.
Meade is expected to go close with the unbeaten Pandorama who has a big future ahead of him while Mullins runs the interesting Apt Approach following his second last time out.
Mullins has a big chance with Doctor Deejay — Ruby Walsh in the saddle — in the Billecart-Salmon Handicap Hurdle, although Benburb trainer Jim Lambe can pose a threat with Natal. Walsh could also be on target on Golan Guy in the Tayto Handicap.
First race on today’s quality seven-race card is at 12.55pm.