Ruby Walsh steps down as Paul Nicholls’ stable jockey

Top jump jockey Ruby Walsh is to leave his role as stable jockey at Paul Nicholls’ Somerset yard to spend more time in Ireland.

Walsh, who has been retained rider for Nicholls since October 2002, said it was the “hardest call” he’s had to make.

The split marks the end of one of the most successful partnerships in National Hunt racing, recording wins with top horses including Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded and Big Buck’s.

He will be replaced by Daryl Jacob, who won the 2012 Grand National aboard the Nicholls-trained Neptune Collonges.

Walsh, 34, has been Irish champion jockey six times and will focus on riding for Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins, for whom he is also number one jockey.

He said he also wants to spend more time with his wife, Gillian, and two daughters.

“When I chose to live in Ireland, this was always going to be a job that involved an awful lot of travelling,” Walsh wrote in his column for the Irish Examiner.

“Being stable jockey [at Ditcheat] has enabled me to ride in — and win — the biggest races in our sport, so walking away from my position was never going to be easy.

“However, I felt towards the end of last season that the travelling was starting to take its toll; my family and I were like passing ships in the night.

“In my eyes there was never going to be an easy or right time to make the decision to leave Paul’s yard, and all it entails, behind me. I know it will be difficult to watch them [top horses] and emerging talent run next season but there are only so many times one can walk into Dublin airport before 6am. By the time the week’s done, I may have seen my children for a couple of hours.

“I have loved each and every one of the past 11 seasons. However, at 34 years of age, I no longer feel that I can give 100% to two yards. My future will be very different but I think it is still bright as Willie Mullins’ yard is well stocked with talent and hopefully some future stars.”