Maher thrilled by Ruby Walsh booking in Australia
Last Updated: 05/08/15 11:32am
What began as "pie in the sky" will on Sunday become reality when Ruby Walsh partners esteemed Australian stayer Bashboy in the Grand National Steeplechase.
Trainer Ciaron Maher is still coming to terms with having pulled off the sizeable coup of luring Walsh around the world to ride one of his horses.
Bashboy is no ordinary thoroughbred in his homeland, though, as he attempts to claim an unprecedented third victory in the Australian version of the Grand National at Ballarat racecourse, in Victoria.
Maher told Press Association Sport: "Ruby coming here is a great story for Australian jumps racing and it has really caught everyone's imagination.
"He's a great draw-card, and everyone seems to be buzzing at the idea of him riding Bashboy.
"It will just be great to float a few ideas by Ruby and see how our horse stacks up with the National Hunt horses in his part of the world."
The position aboard Bashboy officially became vacant on Wednesday when regular jockey Steve Pateman failed in his attempt to have a riding suspension quashed at an appeal hearing.
Walsh, 36, will also be entering uncharted territory as he has his first rides in Australia in a deal which was partly brokered by Willie Mullins. He has also been booked to ride Arch Fire for Robert Smerdon in the JJ Houlahan Hurdle.
Maher said: "It's a shame for Steve that his appeal didn't come through but, on the other hand, it's fantastic to get a rider of Ruby's calibre, experience and greatness.
"It's funny how it all worked out, really. I was sitting back in my chair at home a week ago thinking, 'Who on earth's going to ride Bashboy if Steve is suspended?'
"I suddenly thought about Ruby, but just accepted it was pie in the sky.
"But then I remembered that Mike Symons, who is the chairman of Melbourne Racing Club, knows Willie Mullins quite a bit.
"Mike spoke to Willie and when we found out that Ruby was keen, we couldn't really believe it."
Maher, whose horses are predominantly stabled at Caulfield and Warrnambool racecourses, feels Walsh will not have to adjust his riding style to successfully come to terms with Bashboy.
He said: "He's a very straightforward horse - he wouldn't need a great deal of getting used to.
"He's also very much in the mould of National Hunt horses in Britain and Ireland in that he's a big, scopey, strong stayer who loves heavy ground.
"I think Ruby gets here on Saturday afternoon, so if he wanted to give him a stretch on Sunday morning he could do."
Twelve-year-old Bashboy had been considered for an overseas campaign in his pomp, but the Australian National has been suggested by owner-breeder Ian Macdonald as a possible last hurrah before retirement.
Maher remains keen to send runners across to Britain, and could have an ideal sprinter for Royal Ascot next summer.
"I can't wait to get Ruby's take on Bashboy and how he thinks he would have got on in Britain," said the trainer.
"We've floated the idea to travel before with him as we thought he had the right qualities - he's big enough to jump higher fences and stays all day long.
"We've also got a horse called Srikandi who has won a few Group Ones over here. We're looking at possibly bringing her over for the Golden Jubilee.
"We're not under any illusions, but I'd love to take horses over to Britain at some stage."