sport

Walsh hails Grozny performance

Ruby Walsh believes Triumph Hurdle favourite Ivan Grozny could be an even more potent force at Cheltenham than he was at Naas last Saturday.

Narrowly beaten by Plinth on his hurdling bow at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival, the four-year-old showed smart acceleration in testing conditions to beat his rivals by upwards of 12 lengths last weekend and he has been heavily backed for the major juvenile prize at the Festival since.

Walsh told Racing UK: "We were a little taken aback by him in Leopardstown. We thought he was very decent. Maybe Plinth is a good horse, but he (Ivan Grozny) improved a lot from Leopardstown and jumped much slicker in Naas.

"He travelled really strongly and you'd have to like the way he quickened up when he got a run going to the last and the distance he put between himself and Indian Icon from the last home.

"He had very good form on the Flat in France, albeit mostly on much better ground. We'd be hoping there'll be a bit of improvement when he gets good ground.

"It was very testing ground in Naas. It was lashing rain and quite windy, so it was a good performance from a Flat horse to quicken up in the elements and really sprint to the winning post, so I was quite taken by him."

Walsh is unsure whether trainer Willie Mullins will decide to run Ivan Grozny between now and March, but suggested his lack of experience would not be as much of a concern as it would have been in years gone by.

"The introduction of the Fred Winter has been of great benefit to the Triumph. It has probably turned into more of a genuine Grade One than a 30-runner Grade One you needed a lot of luck in," he said.

"We're nearly at the end of January now, but I'd imagine at most he'll have one more run (before Cheltenham)."