After a career in the saddle spanning 24 years, top National Hunt jockey Ruby Walsh announced his retirement on winning the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup aboard the Willie Mullins-trained Kemboy yesterday (Wednesday, 1 May).
The 39-year-old Irishman waved goodbye to the Punchestown crowd following his two-length victory in the Grade One contest in Ireland.
The jockey has ridden more than 2,500 winners and has more Cheltenham Festival successes to his name than any other rider in history.
The former number one jockey to champion trainer Paul Nicholls decided to spend more time at home in Ireland and took up the full-time role riding for Willie Mullins’ yard in 2013.
Ruby burst on to the scene in this country when winning the Grand National in 2000 on Papillon, who was trained by his father, Ted. He became a dual National-winning rider when triumphing aboard Hedgehunter in 2005.
His other big successes in the saddle came on two notable horses; Hurricane Fly and Kauto Star. He steered Hurricane Fly to two Champion Hurdle titles and the Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star to two Cheltenham Gold Cups, plus five King George VI Chase wins.
“You have a dream and you keep going until the dream turns into a nightmare. Thankfully, it never did and I have just been so lucky. Riding is all I ever wanted to do and I have got to live that dream — it’s brilliant,” Ruby wrote in his Racing TV blog.
“I had made up my mind that I would retire if Kemboy won this week [at Punchestown]. There comes a time when you think you have had enough of this and want to do something different. I probably decided last summer that I was going to retire.
Top jockey Ruby Walsh is to have a song released in his honour by Irish folk singer Christy Moore
Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh won a second consecutive Stan James King George VI Chase in devastating style
“Any jockey is only as good as the horses they are riding. I rode some absolute superstars from Imperial Call at Punchestown 20 years ago, to Azertyuiop, Denman, Kauto Star, Big Buck’s, Master Minded, Vautour, Annie Power, Faugheen, Hurricane Fly — I have ridden them all. Even if you had a crystal ball, you could not have seen how lucky I was going to be.”
AP McCoy paid tribute to his friend and former weighing room colleague on Twitter saying: “Congratulations to my great friend Ruby Walsh on an amazing career. He was like Lionel Messi on a horse. What he has is uncoachable and unteachable — just better than everyone else.”
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