Mark Walsh will replace the injured Jack Kennedy aboard Delta Work in the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month. Trainer Gordon Elliott revealed the news at Tuesday's Punchestown meeting, where Walsh rode a winner for Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud.
The seven-year-old Delta Work was edged into third in last year’s RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at the Festival, but he has come of age in fine style this term, winning two of his three starts.
Victorious in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup, Delta Work now boasts five Grade 1 wins on his CV.
Speaking to Racing TV, Elliott said: "Michael and and Eddie [O’Leary] had a chat about it and that’s what they have decided. Mark has been lucky for us and it’s a nice spare ride for him. Davy [Russell] is tied up with 'Percy', Mark is who the boys wanted and I am happy to have him."
Elliott believes Delta Work will be perfectly suited by three and a quarter miles at Prestbury Park.
He said: “He’s all set for the Gold Cup. I don’t think he’s done much wrong over the last couple of seasons – he was lame after Down Royal (when he was beaten on his seasonal bow) and was just beaten in the RSA last year.
“It just didn’t work out for him in Cheltenham last season. It was probably my own fault, as I didn’t run him between Christmas and the RSA and he seems to be a horse that runs better when he runs more often. I think he’s made for the race. His style of racing will suit – going three-mile-two. He probably is a bit of a forgotten horse. He’s won five or six Grade 1s and gets the job done.”
Elliott certainly knows what it takes to the win the Gold Cup, having sent out Don Cossack to lift the prize in 2016, but he has plenty of respect for Delta Work’s likely Cheltenham rivals.
“It would be great to win another Gold Cup. You have to respect whatever Willie Mullins runs and I’d say he’s the biggest danger. Al Boum Photo and (the Nicky Henderson-trained) Santini are probably the two horses you’d respect most.
“I tend to worry about my own horses and let everybody else worry about theirs. I wouldn’t swap my horses, but I’m sure if you asked five or six other trainers they’d say the same.”
Jack Kennedy has ridden Delta Work to his last two wins, but he is currently on the sidelines with a broken femur.
Elliott said: “Jack was awesome on him the last day. The ride he gave him that day, Ruby Walsh at his best would have been proud of it."