The racing world was left speechless on Wednesday evening as Ruby Walsh, one of the sports icons, called time on a glistening career that has seen him etched into National Hunt folklore. From Festival winners to the Grand National, he’s done it all, and here we salute the legend that is, Ruby Walsh.
Bowing out after a Punchestown Gold Cup victory aboard Kemboy, his domination of the Irish scene alongside Willie Mullins has been incredible to watch and his immense talent will always be undeniable. Mullins will look to continue stamping that authority on Thursday, with our Punchestown Festival tips live and ready to view now.
From his year’s as an amateur, it became obvious very quickly that Walsh was destined for great things. Winning the amateur jockeys’ title in 1996/97 and 1997/98, it would be just two year’s later that he would burst into the limelight when landing the Grand National at the first attempt aboard Papillon in the 2000 edition. He’d regain that honour in 2005 aboard Hedgehunter.
His first professional jockey’s title would come with it, taking the 2000/01 championship, and he would go on to take that accolade a staggering eleven times since.
Walsh is synonymous with his exploits at the Cheltenham Festival, where he’s been loved (and sometimes loathed), by so many. Winning fifty-nine races on National Hunt’s grandest stage, that figure helped propel him to eleven top jockey honours at the meeting.
He’s best known for his partnerships with both Kauto Star and Big Buck’s, with the former becoming the only horse to regain the Gold Cup. The latter won the Stayers’ Hurdle a record four consecutive times, with his toughness and tenacity off the front-end showcasing Walsh’s immense pace-judging ability.
His partnership with Willie Mullins has become synonymous and their dominance of National Hunt racing in Ireland (and overseas) has been truly remarkable to watch. The pairing had the “fear factor”, and it was rare to see a horse baring those names ever being out of the front of the market.
Sometimes, they didn’t deserve to be there, but the two names struck the fear of God into the bookmakers! Hurricane Fly is perhaps the partnerships golden light, winning a staggering twenty-two races at Grade 1 level. In recent years, both Faugheen and Annie Power bolstered an already huge repertoire of star horses, with both winning the Champion Hurdle.
When Ruby Walsh was out in front and sitting motionless, there was always a certain air of inevitability about the fact he wasn’t going to be passed. His spellbinding ability to judge a race has always been fantastic to watch, winning races with the minimum amount of fuss.
He always had the ability to keep his horses travelling, able to coax his horses into the race without seemingly needing to move a muscle. Cheltenham won’t quite be the same without the chants of “Ruby Ruby Ruby!” and after an illustrious career that has spanned more than two decades, it’s safe to say that Walsh will sit high in the National Hunt Hall of Fame.