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    A Look through the career of Ruby Walsh
A Look through the career of Ruby Walsh
Rupert "Ruby" Walsh. Source: Times

A Look through the career of Ruby Walsh

The Irish jockey Rupert "Ruby" Walsh is a dominant force in UK jump racing, often winning the feature race of the week. With over 1400 career wins, he has found success on many days of the week, not just "Ruby Saturdays."

Walsh's partnership with Ditcheat-based trainer Paul Nicholls was the dominant force in the UK jump scene, while over in Ireland, he rode for Willie Mullins. The fact that both are champion trainers in their respective countries, and both choose to share Walsh, reflects his mastery. Throughout his career, the jockey rode over 2,500 winners in the UK and Ireland. He was particularly dominant at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats.

Like many in the racing game, Rupert Walsh, his given name, followed in the family's footsteps. His father Ted, a familiar face on UK and Irish television coverage, was a leading amateur jockey of his day and a trainer of some repute. Indeed, he trained the 2000 Grand National winner in Papillon, ridden, of course, by his then 20-year-old son. The pair won the Irish Grand National the same month with Commanche Court. He repeated his Aintree success on the Mullins-trained Hedgehunter in 2005.

Having first tasted victory at the Cheltenham Festival in the 1998 Champion Bumper as a mere 17-year-old, he started to hit his stride at jump racing's HQ when winning the Arkle Trophy in 2003 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase aboard the Nicholls-trained Azertyuiop. From then on, the Nicholls-Walsh partnership has swept to near-dominance at the Festival, with the 2009 event seeing Walsh winning a record seven races in four days, leaving him second in all-time wins behind Pat Taaffe, rider of the legendary Arkle.

The jockey is most closely associated with the greats Kauto Star and Denman, both trained by Nicholls. He guided Kauto Star to an unprecedented four King George VI Chase victories and a Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph, becoming the first horse to regain that coveted prize. He also rode Denman to success, including a Hennessey Gold Cup win.

Other equine superstars the jockey has steered to victory include the Champion Chase winner Master Minded. Known for his masterful race riding, settling horses and delivering them at the perfect moment, the jockey has been described as the "man who takes all the prize money" by his great rival Tony McCoy. The jockey was also the regular rider for other equine legends like Big Bucks, who won 18 consecutive races after taking his 4th World Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2012. And he rode the brilliant Master Minded to back-to-back Queen Mother Champion Chase wins in 2008 and 2009.

The jockey continued his Cheltenham Festival dominance in the 2010s, winning the Champion Hurdle twice with Hurricane Fly and setting a new record of five consecutive Mares' Hurdle wins aboard the mare Quevega. One of the most poignant moments came in 2012 when he pulled up the legendary Kauto Star, receiving a rousing ovation from the crowd in recognition of their remarkable partnership. The sheer volume and calibre of the jockey's accomplishments over his illustrious career cement his status as one of the all-time greats of jump racing.

Rupert "Ruby" Walsh. Source: The Irish Post
Rupert "Ruby" Walsh. Source: The Irish Post

Career High:

As previously mentioned, the 2009 Cheltenham Festival was an incredible four-day stretch for the jockey, as he rode a remarkable 7 winners over the course of the meeting. Being a career-high, this impressive feat cemented his status as the most successful jockey at the prestigious event. While Kauto Star's Gold Cup victory that year was the undoubted highlight, the jockey was also able to gain a measure of revenge over rival Denman, who had beaten him the previous year. This dominant performance at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival had the racing world eagerly anticipating his continued success in the years to come.

Rupert "Ruby" Walsh falls. Source: The Winners Enclosure
Rupert "Ruby" Walsh falls. Source: The Winners Enclosure

Career Low:

The jockey has had to overcome a number of serious injuries throughout his career, which is an occupational hazard for jump jockeys. As a teenager, he suffered two broken legs. This was followed by a litany of other breaks and dislocations over the years. One particularly low point came in November 2008, when he suffered a ruptured spleen after a heavy fall at Cheltenham. The injury required the removal of his spleen, but remarkably he was able to return just five weeks later to ride Kauto Star to another King George VI Chase victory. The resilience and toughness displayed by the jockey in bouncing back from these various setbacks is a testament to his fortitude and dedication to his craft.

Before turning professional, the jockey won the Irish Amateur Title twice. 

Quick Facts: 

  • Ruby Walsh was crowned the champion National Hunt jockey in Ireland a record 12 times, with his final title coming at the end of the 2016/2017 season. That season he matched his previous best tally of 131 winners.
  • The highlight of his racing career was arguably winning the prestigious Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan in 2013 on Blackstairmountain, which stands out as his most valuable career victory.
  • He also enjoyed notable success riding in other international venues, including Australia and the USA, in addition to winning races in France.
  • Over the course of his career, Ruby Walsh rode a total of 2,756 winners - 1,980 in Ireland and 776 in Britain.
  • He came from a famous racing family, being the second child and eldest son of 11-time champion amateur jockey Ted Walsh. His sister Katie Walsh was also a successful top amateur rider.
  • Before turning professional, Ruby Walsh won the Irish amateur title twice, in 1996/1997 and 1997/1998 at the young age of 18.

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