Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival: Walsh and Jacob face lengthy injury lay-offs

Three leading jockeys will leave this week's Cheltenham Festival with major question marks about whether they'll return to racing this season.

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Ruby Walsh, Jockey

Ruby Walsh, the Festival's most successful ever rider with 41 wins, is a serious doubt for the Grand National after he suffered a compound fracture to his right arm after falling from Abbyssial in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Daryl Jacob then broke his knee, leg and elbow after his horse, Port Melon, got spooked cantering to the start of the Novices' Hurdle and threw him into spectators.

They join rising star of the weighing room Bryan Cooper, who was sidelined for the season after breaking his leg on Tuesday.

Despite his injury, Walsh still finished the meeting as the leading jockey - the eighth time he has taken that honour in the last 11 years.

Like Barry Geraghty and Tom Scudamore, he rode three winners but he edged ahead of them because of a superior number of placed rides.

Ireland's Willie Mullins was again crowned top trainer with four wins, six seconds and two thirds, ahead of Jonjo O'Neill and David Pipe, who both saw their stables claim three wins.

"It's been an up and down week, the horses have been running well but we've had some near misses too," said Mullins.

"Obviously Ruby's injury has taken a shine off things but it's been a great win overall and I'd have to pick out his win on Vautour in particular."

A strong Irish performance on the final day of the Festival, including their first Gold Cup winner in eight years when Lord Windermere claimed the showpiece for trainer Jim Culloty, narrowed the standings in the Prestbury Cup.

British trainers were already assured the trophy ahead of the final day of the meeting but their winning margin was shortened to 15-12 as Irish trainers won six of the seven races.

Meanwhile, eight-year-old Raya Star, trained by Alan King and owned by Simon Munir, became the fourth horse to be put down at the Cheltenham Festival after suffering a fractured spine in the final race of the meeting, the Grand Annual.

It took the number of horses killed at this year's Festival to four, following the earlier deaths of Our Conor, Akdam and Stack The Deck.

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