There is a choice ride still going spare at the Cheltenham Festival with Harry Fry searching for a jockey to ride 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby in the World Hurdle.
Noel Fehily has ridden the 10-year-old on his last 14 starts since being in the saddle for his victory in the Champion Hurdle. Since then, Rock On Ruby has had an aborted career over fences and has been stepped up in trip in time to tackle the three-mile World Hurdle at the Festival.
However, Fehily is contracted to ride Zarkandar for the Paul Nicholls stable in the World Hurdle and that has left Fry on the look-out for someone to ride Rock On Ruby.
So who will Fry give the leg-up to on Thursday March 12?
It seems unlikely that Harry Skelton, who was on board for Rock On Ruby’s first two hurdle runs, will be given the nod.
Ruby Walsh rode him a few times before opting for Hurricane Fly in the 2012 Champion Hurdle. Walsh is likely to be called on to ride the 2013 Cheltenham Bumper winner Briar Hill for Willie Mullins.
The only other jockey to have ridden Rock On Ruby in a race over hurdles is Daryl Jacob. He was narrowly denied by First Lieutenant in the 2011 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before then being in the saddle when Rock On Ruby was third at Aintree. However, Jacob is likely to partner Reve De Sivola in the World Hurdle. Jacob has ridden Reve De Sivola the last twice, when he beat Zarkandar in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas and when second to Saphir De Rheu in the Cleeve Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day.
The name of champion jockey Tony McCoy has been thrown into the ring as well. The Cheltenham betting news for the World Hurdle was given a recent shake-up when it was confirmed that last year’s winner More Of That would not be fit enough to defend his crown. McCoy would have ridden More Of That in the JP McManus colours and the horse’s absence led to suggestions that the retiring jockey could switch to Rock On Ruby. As it stands, though, McCoy is expecting to ride World Hurdle outsider At Fishers Cross, who also runs in the McManus green-and-gold silks. Yet, if emotion is to come into a decision, you would not be surprised to see McCoy given the opportunity to ride Rock On Ruby as he has yet to win the World Hurdle during his illustrious career.
If it is not McCoy, then who else could Fry turn to? Barry Geraghty is a big-race specialist, but he is likely to be claimed to ride Whisper for Nicky Henderson. With Whisper having won the Coral Cup at the Festival last year and then the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle over three miles at Aintree, it would be hard to see Geraghty deserting the horse.
It could end up being Nick Scholfield who is given the mount. Scholfield rode Rock On Ruby on his Bumper debut and does ride regularly for Fry. If logic trumps sentiment, then Scholfield seems the most likely jockey for Rock On Ruby at this stage.