Rotten day for Walsh
Appeal loss in London is followed by Clonmel flop
A MISERABLE day for Ruby Walsh was made even worse after the odds-on defeat of The Midnight Club in the Clonmel Festival Week Chase, won by Leanne.
Walsh was in London at 9am appealing against a three-day ban he picked up at Cheltenham on Saturday following the demotion of Pearl Swan in the Triumph Hurdle Trial.
While he admitted the careless riding charge, Walsh was attempting to get the severity of the ban reduced but the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority did not agree with him.
He did, however, succeed in his wish to ride at Leopardstown on February 1 as there is Grade One action, but he will miss a big day at Newbury 24 hours earlier.
Having flown straight back to ride Willie Mullins' The Midnight Club, who was sent off favourite for last year's Grand National in which he finished sixth, he never looked likely to pick up compensation.
The finish was dominated by Trafford Lad, a Grade One winner in his youth but beset by injury problems since, and the mare Leanne (6/1), who just prevailed after a coming together at the last.
Bill Harney's 10-year-old was bouncing back to something like her best under Bryan Cooper.
Harney said: "She's in some health. We'll have to sit and think about plans. She's entered next week at Thurles but probably won't run."
Walsh said of The Midnight Club: "He was never going and the ground was just too heavy."
He was pushed out to 25/1 from 16s for the National by Paddy Power.
Conor O'Dwyer may be returning to the Cheltenham Festival with a live contender after the effortless victory of Folsom Blue in the feature Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle.
O'Dwyer is one of an elite list of jockeys to have won the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup on Hardy Eustace (twice) and War Of Attrition respectively.
Folsom Blue runs in the familiar Gigginstown Stud colours War Of Attrition used to carry with such distinction and Davy Russell oozed confidence throughout on the 2/1 favourite on his way to a nine-length win.
Stan James cut him to 12/1 from 20s for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and that could be his next assignment.
"He takes his races well but he's not over-big. If he's going to Cheltenham then he'll go straight there," said O'Dwyer.
"He's a laid-back horse at home and you wouldn't know how good he was. But he looks a proper horse.
"I was a bit worried about the ground, but he did everything nice and easy and travelled well.
"He's entered in the Albert Bartlett and he's certainly entitled to an entry at least.
"It's something to dream about!"
Willie Mullins, trainer of The Midnight Club and Cooldine, nevertheless brought up his 101st winner of the season when Immediate Response cruised to victory in the Clonmel Festival Week Handicap Hurdle.
The 6/4 favourite was returning from well over two years off the track but never looked under any pressure in the hands of the trainer's son, Patrick.
"His jumping was very slick for his first run in a handicap," said Willie Mullins. "He broke down badly after his last run, and I've only had him about six weeks.
"We'll stick to handicapping and he's in at Fairyhouse on Saturday, although I don't like running them so quickly. Running twice so quick with a leg is bad news but we might make an exception with this fellow."
The Mullinses then combined to win the hunter chase with Boxer Georg, who was given a 12/1 quote for the Cheltenham Foxhunter by Stan James.