Paul Nicholls Exclusive: I'm proud to have been part of Ruby's journey

Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh
Paul Nicholls enjoyed a hugely successful time with now retired jockey Ruby Walsh
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Following the immediate retirement of Ruby Walsh from race riding Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls shares his thoughts and memories on one of the greatest jockeys of all time...

"He was a brilliant, instinctive jockey, as good as I've seen and a pleasure to deal with over a dozen years and more."

- Paul Nicholls on Ruby Walsh

I was thrilled to see Ruby Walsh go out at the top and in one piece after his brilliant winning ride on Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

Ruby was one of the greats and we enjoyed so much success together during a golden period with a series of big race wins by Kauto Star, Denman, Big Bucks, Master Minded and plenty of others.

We shared some amazing times and Ruby quickly became a close friend once he joined Team Ditcheat. We tried to sign him up on a couple of occasions before he agreed to ride for us regularly in 2002-3.

A match made in heaven

In a perfect world I'd have liked to call on him seven days a week but that wasn't going to happen as he wanted to ride in Ireland a couple of days each week.

What we had in place was a gentleman's agreement which proved to be a match made in heaven.

Ruby would be here several days a week, most of all on Saturdays, while he tended to be in Ireland on Thursdays and Sundays, riding mostly for Willie Mullins.

He was a brilliant, instinctive jockey, as good as I've seen and a pleasure to deal with over a dozen years and more. Eventually, though, he found it was becoming impossible to split his time between top yards in England and Ireland.

Willie was expanding fast and his stables were just down the road from Ruby's home. He had spent years commuting between Ireland and England and it wasn't a surprise when he'd told me that he had decided to ride full time for Willie.

It was a natural progression for him and I half knew it might happen as the golden era we enjoyed with our Grade 1 horses was coming to an end.

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While it was blow to lose such an outstanding ally you have to move on in life though it was always going to be hard to replace him.

Ruby continued to ride the odd one for us when available and I have continued to admire his resilience at coming back time and again from some horrific injuries with his ability and enthusiasm intact.

I remember when his spleen was removed during emergency surgery after a fall at Cheltenham. I feared he would be out for months and was astonished when he was back inside four weeks. What a man.

You only have to look at his long list of broken bones and countless journeys to hospital by ambulance to appreciate his toughness of spirit.

That is why I am so pleased that he ended on a high yesterday.

He was at the top of his game this spring at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown and the ride he gave the free running Kemboy was as good as you will ever see from a jockey.

Lots of happy memories and pride

From the start Ruby was a special talent. He was always thinking, always had a plan, and his input was crucial when we had all those top class horses.

I remember the smile on his face after he had won on Kauto Star at Newbury on his debut for us as a four year old. His reaction told me that Ruby knew we had a superstar on our hands.

We shared so many marvellous moments including two Gold Cups but if I had to choose one it would be Kauto Star's unforgettable fifth King George V1 Chase at Kempton. We were both so excited that day.

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Other memorable triumphs that come to mind include Denman's second mind blowing success in the Hennessy Gold Cup and Ruby's never say die winning ride on Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas, 2012.

While age catches up with all of us there is no doubt that he will be remembered as a a great jockey and a first class man.

In my view Ruby was right up there alongside Sir AP McCoy. They had markedly different styles and while no one could match AP's volume of winners, Ruby's record in Grade 1 races was second to none.

His career has been a shining light for racing and I am proud to have shared part of the journey with him.

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Paul Nicholls,

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