Leading Irish jockey Ruby Walsh has announced his retirement from race riding with immediate effect following his Punchestown Gold Cup win on Kemboy...
"Walsh enjoyed huge success on some of National Hunt's greatest horses in recent years including perhaps most famously on Kauto Star who he rode to multiple victories in the Cheltenham Gold, King George VI, and Betfair Chase for Betfair Ambassador Nicholls."
The 12-time Irish National Hunt champion jockey announced his decision to retire after steering 13/8 favourite Kemboy to victory in the feature race at the Punchestown Festival, bringing the curtain down on a glittering 24-year career.
Walsh, 39, rode his first winner in 1995 but famously won the Grand National as a baby-faced 20-year-old on his first attempt when riding Papillon to victory for his father, Ted Walsh.
"I think I knew going out that if he won I wouldn't ride again," Walsh said, talking about Kemboy, before adding, "Time moves on, I've done it for 24 years and to be honest I want to do something else over the next 24 - I'm just not sure what."
Association with Nicholls and Mullins
The young Irishman's talent were obvious to everyone and he soon became the retained jockey to the powerhouse stable of Paul Nicholls in England and Willie Mullins in his home nation.
Walsh enjoyed huge success on some of National Hunt's greatest horses in recent years including perhaps most famously on Kauto Star who he rode to multiple victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, King George VI, and Betfair Chase for Betfair Ambassador Nicholls.
Master Minded and Big Buck's were other brilliant Cheltenham Festival winners for Nicholls under the superb hands of Walsh, but in recent years it was his associations with the Mullins-trained stars Hurrican Fly, Faugheen, Douvan, Vautour and the super mare Annie Power that kept him on top of his game.
Forever a Cheltenham legend
It was at the Cheltenham Festival where Walsh really excelled however, winning a total of 59 winners at National Hunt's showcase meeting, a record that will possibly never be bettered.
But perhaps to some punters the name of Ruby Walsh will be remembered less fondly in connection with Cheltenham following his last flight fall on Annie Power in the 2015 Mares' Hurdle, with the favourite's exit believed to have saved the industry around £50 million in accumulator liabilities following earlier victories for Walsh/Mullins in the three feature races on the first day of the Festival.
Injuries and friendship
Walsh's incredible success is perhaps more extraordinary when you consider the number of serious injuries and broken bones he has suffered during his career, an almost endless list that names broken legs, fractured hip, dislocated wrists, broken ankles, and an emergency operation to remove a spleen, amongst the worst.
But as much as anything Walsh will be remembered for his great friendship with his biggest rival AP McCoy, as well as being a gentleman and loving family man. And he wasn't too bad in the saddle either.
*Betting.Betfair will have further tributes to Ruby Walsh from his former boss Paul Nicholls in the coming days.