Ruby Walsh has aired his sympathy for the riders, owners and horses whose heroic feats at this week's Cheltenham Festival are being greeted with the echoes of a handful rather than the roar of thousands.

The famous meeting is behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, though there has still been plenty of drama so far, not to mention a lot of Irish success stories.

Rachael Blackmore's brilliance, Tiger Roll's enduring class and the endearing glory of small Kilkenny trainer Paul Hennessy with Heaven Help Us have all charmed punters and supporters after two days of racing.

But Walsh, working as a pundit for ITV at the festival, said the absence of crowds means the occasion has lost some of its sparkle. 

"I thought Galway was strange. Leopardstown at Christmas was weird. This is just off-the-charts different - it's so eerie," he told RTÉ'S Game On.

"It's such a special place. Richie Condon rode a winner for Paul Hennessy [aboard Heaven Help Us], it should have been such a magic day for them, and yet they turn at the top of the track, walk back down at the front of the grandstand and there's literally five people. It's so eerie.

"Everyone that's there is trying their best to cheer each other on. All the Irish stable staff are in the Best Mate Enclosure - you can nearly tell who is shouting because you can hear the individual voices, there's that big an echo around the place.

"I was so lucky in my career to have walked back down that chute so many times in front of a packed grandstand with so many well-wishers. It's like a lap of honour on a pitch. No one is getting a lap of honour.

"The achievement is still there - and that is what it's all about, the achievement. They are all achieving, but they're not getting the plaudits they should be experiencing. I do feel a little sorry for each and every one of them."

Regardless of the oddness of this year's festival, Walsh did point out that the jockeys have little problem adjusting to the quieter surrounds.

"For us it's a novelty to perform in front of 70,000 people," he said.

"You'd get it in Galway with 40,000-odd people, but Cheltenham and Aintree are the only places big enough and with that volume of people. It's a novelty. Monday to Friday, all year round, you are basically performing in an empty stadium. You're well used to it."