Cheltenham Gold Cup: After his fantastic four on Thursday, Ruby Walsh eyes a third Gold Cup

Ed Malyon
Walsh passed the milestone of 50 wins with victories on Yorkhill, Un De Sceaux, Nichols Canyon and Let's Dance: Getty

As punters staggered out through a lawn of shredded, booze-soaked betting slips after the second day of Cheltenham, Ruby Walsh sat contemplative, aghast.

How could it be that the County Kildare-born jockey who had made this festival his own did not have a single race victory to his name halfway through the 2017 renewal of national hunt racing's premier meeting?

But on Thursday he saddled up and got on with it, as he always does, and added four more wins to his Cheltenham tally, extending it to an astonishing 57 career victories in this precious corner of Gloucestershire.

Walsh has been the festival's top jockey for ten of the last thirteen years. He is Cheltenham, and on Thursday the crowd, his crowd, sang his name again after Yorkhill, Un De Sceaux, Let's Dance and, most impressively, Nichols Canyon completed a memorable four-fold.

For perspective, he has previously been the festival's top jockey on four separate occasions after winning just three races all week. This was a historic day to blow all of those, and a barren couple of days, out of the water.

"What a day," Walsh said. "The horses ran well the first two days, they just weren't winning.

"In previous years we were front-loaded and this year we were back-loaded, we knew we had great chances today and we think we have a couple tomorrow."

One of those, of course, is in the day's big one, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. His ride Djakadam has come second in the blue riband event here on each of its last two renewals, contributing to a remarkable six-time runner-up record for trainer Willie Mullins who still desperately craves his first Gold Cup.

But it is a talented field, with Cue Card a fans' favourite and highly-fancied after falling three fences from home last year, and another Colin Tizzard horse, Native River, just behind Walsh's mount in the betting.

Djakadam is the favourite for Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup (Getty)

Thistlecrack was the strongly-fancied favourite, only to succumb to injury last month and leave an open, evenly-match field. Sizing John won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month and has backing, while Tea for Two could hand the race its first-ever female winner with Lizzie Kelly on board.

But all eyes will be on Walsh, a Cheltenham legend who recovered his groove, as he hops on board the favourite, Djakadam, and looks to regain that golden trophy that has eluded him since 2009.