Ruby waves goodbye and brings the curtain down on a fabulous career following emotional success in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup aboard Kemboy
Incredible scenes at Punchestown as the twelve time champion jockey announces immediate retirement
Ruby Walsh brought his amazing, incomparable and ground breaking career to a close at Punchestown this evening after partnering Kemboy to victory in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup.
A twelve-times champion Irish National Hunt jockey, the winner of virtually every big race there is to be won over jumps and the most successful rider in Cheltenham Festival history, Walsh (39) waved goodbye to the assembled crowds at Punchestown as he crossed the line in front in the feature race on Kemboy. That gesture suggested that Walsh could be poised to bow out and just a few minutes later it was confirmed that he was retiring with immediate effect.
The victory of Siren Song, trained by his father Ted, at Gowran in July 1995 represented the start of Walsh’s stellar career and some 24 years and a total of 2,768 winners later he bows out as one of the greatest jockeys of all time. Over the course of his career he amassed an unparalleled 59 winners at Cheltenham, the first of which came aboard the Willie Mullins-trained Alexander Banquet in 1998.
Explaining his decision Walsh said: "To me the decision probably came last summer. I felt if I could get through this year without injury I would get out at Punchestown. I was always taught that it’s all about the big occasion. That’s what it was all about. I suppose being honest if Rathvinden had won the Grand National I would have gone out on him, there is no bigger day than that.
"But I always said I would go out on a winner. I had talked to Gillian (wife) about it for a while and there comes a time that you want to do something else and I have been a jump jockey for 24 years, I am nearly 40 and I want to do something different for the next 24 or 25 year."
The 39-year-old added: “I have been so lucky since day one to ride so many incredible horses. I never dreamt I would get to ride the equine athletes that I have, and no jockey is any good without the horses, and the horses are such a huge part of it. From the very beginning, with Imperial Call here 20 years ago to Alexander Banquet, Kauto Star, Master Minded, Big Bucks, Hurricane Fly, Annie Power, Quevega, Kemboy, Un De Sceaux. In anyones lifetime, I rode the best horses.
"Everyone gets their fair share of injuries, but I probably got a fraction more than my fair share, but the average is that someone has to have a high average to make up for the lads with the lower average and I was probably on the higher end of that. That’s racing."
Willie Mullins added: “I never sensed it was coming. It was totally out of the blue, retirement is a word we don’t use in our horses for either horses or humans. It’s the end of an era. He had a great career with Paul (Nicholls), a great career with me and just what a career. In terms of riding and horses we were totally in sync and I don’t think that we ever had a cross word. It’s going to be strange without him.
“I remember many years he rode a very difficult filly for me and after the ride he gave her I said to Jackie (Mullins) this is the future. At the time he was riding as an amateur and a lot of thought went into where he would turn professional and thankfully he did.
A proud father Ted said: “He was always well able to ride but nobody could see the mind that he had – to deal with the adversity and to be able to handle the pressure of the big occasion. A bit like Tiger Woods at Augusta he got to master Cheltenham very early on and from early on he was good on the big occasion. He was never cocky but always confident and he was also able to ride for two of the greatest trainers we’ve ever seen in Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls."