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Ruby Walsh retirement - Six of the best horses top jockey Ruby Walsh rode in his career

Ruby Walsh shocked the racing world at Punchestown on Wednesday when announcing his retirement from the saddle.

Brian Healy looks back on a glittering career in the saddle of top jockey Ruby Walsh who announced his retirement from race-riding at Punchestown, and he picks out six of the best career-defining horses Walsh rode in his career.

Top Irish jockey Ruby Walsh shocked the racing world on Wednesday afternoon when, after steering Kemboy to victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup, he announced that the winning ride would be his last and he would be retiring from the saddle with immediate effect.

The announcement brought down the curtain on an illustrious and hugely successful 24-year career in the saddle which saw the 39-year old go out on a high and on his own terms; his decision leaves a void behind that will be difficult to fill, not least for his long-time associate Willie Mullins for whom he has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship through the years.

A winner of 2756 races over obstacles across the UK and Ireland, Walsh is the current winning-most rider in Cheltenham Festival History with 59 successes and also winning the top jockey accolade at the prestigious meeting 11 times. He has also been crowned Champion Jockey in Ireland on 12 occasions, including in his first season as a professional rider.

To date, he is the only rider to have collected a Grand National ‘grand slam’ having won the Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Aintree Grand Nationals in his career. Brian Healy looks back on an illustrious career in the saddle from the top Irish rider, and picks out six of the best horses who helped to define Walsh’s career.


Arguably the most successful partnership in horse racing, Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star were a match made in heaven and the precocious talent of Paul Nicholls’ star was seen to its’ full potential whenever Walsh took the reins.

Such exuberance inevitably led to the occasional mistake, and Kauto supporters - certainly in his early days - were always expecting a bad mistake to come from the Village Star gelding; however, his jumping got better with age, and Walsh always seemed to know exactly how much horse was under him.

Together they dominated the jumping game for several years, collecting five King George VI Chase wins as well as four Betfair Chases, two Tingle Creek Chases and two Gold Cups - including his history-making win in 2009 which saw him regain his crown in devastating fashion.

Now perhaps the benchmark for modern chasers to aspire to, Kauto Star was a legend in every sense of the word and is perhaps the horse most famously associated with Walsh. 


Walsh had made the Stayers’ Hurdle his own throughout his Cheltenham Festival career, winning the race five times of which four came on board the tough-as-teak Big Buck’s who was trained by Paul Nicholls.

The Cadoudal gelding returned from a largely unsuccessful spell over fences to dominate the staying hurdle division for several years, racking up an unbeaten 18-win streak that has only recently been bettered by Altior.

Big Buck’s and Walsh combined to win four successive Stayers’ Hurdle crowns, the last of which came when beating Voler La Vedette in the 2012 renewal, scoring by almost two lengths in typically gutsy style.

Walsh also rode the staying star to his final win in the following season’s Long Distance Hurdle, but following injury to the horse he missed out on a chance that season to try to land a historic fifth crown.


‘The Tank’ and Kauto Star enjoyed a great rivalry despite being stablemates, and Walsh must have found it difficult to choose between the pair.

Sam Thomas was the man to benefit from Walsh’s decisions to side with Kauto Star when the pair would compete together; but Walsh also enjoyed many great moments in the saddle with Paul Nicholls’ bruiser who may have lacked the finesse of his stablemate, but made up for in spades with attitude and determination.

A Gold Cup winner in 2008 when demolishing Walsh and Kauto Star in an exhilarating display under Thomas, it is perhaps Walsh’s ride on board Denman which could be classed as the horse’s best performance when in the wake of much documented heart issues which had arguably robbed him of some of his undoubted class, he answered critics by giving more than a stone in weight to a quality field of rivals to win the 2009 Hennessy Gold Cup by almost four lengths to another of his stablemates in What A Friend.


Perhaps the greatest hurdler to have come out of Ireland, Hurricane Fly and Walsh were a dominant force on both sides of the Irish Sea for seven years, and the Montjeu gelding racked up a seriously impressive haul of wins which numbers no less than 22 Grade One wins over a long and successful career.

Amongst that haul includes two Champion Hurdles, and Willie Mullins’ star enjoyed an unbeaten record at his beloved Leopardstown where he recorded a perfect 10 wins from 10 starts following his arrival at Closutton from France.

The ‘Fly’ progressed from a smart novice hurdler to a full-on superstar during his career, with Walsh steering him to his first two victories before the horse struck up a partnership with Paul Townend for the next three years of his career.

Walsh returned to the saddle on board Hurricane Fly to steer the Montjeu gelding to success in the 2011 Champion Hurdle, and a long and successful association followed with the pair combining for 15 wins from their next 20 starts together until the star was retired in the wake of a crack at the French Champion Hurdle where he finished sixth.


Annie Power will in all probability be remembered for ‘that fall’ at the last when cantering clear under Walsh in the Mares’ Hurdle; but the legacy of the Shirocco mare transcends far beyond that mishap, and the mare is perhaps one of the best mares to have graced the jumps game.

Originally with Jim Bolger, for whom she won twice in bumpers, she subsequently joined Willie Mullins where she won her first eight starts prior to being denied only by More Of That in the 2014 World Hurdle.

Unbeaten in her five subsequent completed starts, that sequence was only interrupted by her last flight fall when clear in the Mares’ Hurdle; but she made amends twelve months on with success in the 2016 Champion Hurdle before bowing out with a bloodless win in the Aintree Hurdle to put the stamp on a fantastic career.

Walsh rode the Shirocco mare to all but two of her wins, with Patrick Mullins in the saddle for each of her first two successes in the wake of her joining the County Carlow hander; together Walsh and Annie Power won 11 of their 13 starts when combining together, five of which were Grade One successes.


Quevega was a remarkable racehorse, and the Robin Des Champs mare was another to benefit from the switch to Willie Mullins from France.

She made the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival her own personal prize, winning the accolade on six occasions, and latter wins in the race had become her sole start of the season with her trained solely for the race to the forgoing of all others.

A horse who never knew when she was beaten, she was also a Grade One winner, scoring at Punchestown twice in the World Series Series Hurdle in consecutive years, and her consistency saw her win 16 of 24 starts over hurdles - 11 of them under Walsh - with only two finishes outside of the first three home in her career.

Such was the strength and depth of the talented horses Walsh had the priviledge of riding throughout his career, it is hard to overlook the likes of Paul Nicholls’ Master Minded, on whom Walsh registered two of his three Champion Chase wins; or Grand National heroes Papillion or Hedgehunter, or Alexander Banquet - who delivered Walsh’s first Cheltenham Festival winner. 

Even more recently, the likes of Douvan and Faugheen could be considered as amongst the best Walsh has ridden; but for career-defining horses, it is hard to overlook the featured six who delivered some of Walsh’s finest moments in the saddle.

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Ruby Walsh retirement - Six of the best horses top jockey Ruby Walsh rode in his career

Brian Healy looks back on a glittering career in the saddle of top jockey Ruby Walsh who announced his retirement from race-riding at Punchestown, and he picks out six of the best career-defining horses Walsh rode in his career.

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