Ruby Walsh came back on a winner at Punchestown yesterday and revealed that was his last, that he was retiring from the saddle with immediate effect.
He has been strenuously denying that he would do so in recent weeks but yesterday he revealed that if he had won the Aintree Grand National he might have done so then.
Instead, it was the home town venue of Punchestown, in front of almost 20,000 fans, that he made the announcement after telling trainer Willie Mullins, with whom he has been so long associated, that he would have to find another jockey for the horse he was due to ride in the next race.
It has been some career. In 24 years from the age of 15 he has been Champion Jockey in Ireland 12 times, and leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival on 11 occasions.
His record at Cheltenham is staggering with 59 winners. He rode Kauto Star to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on two occasions. His association with Hurricane Fly was part of a haul of four Champion Hurdles. He also rode three Champion Chase winners and five Stayers Hurdle victories.
he said yesterday that it was always about the biggest of days and Walsh’s legacy to the sport will be about those days. Winning the Grand National at Aintree on board Pappilon, trained by his Father Ted will be another of the most vivid memories for those who have seen him.
The next phase is likely to see him stepping more into the media spotlight.
He has a regular column in the Irish Examiner where he writes today about the decision to step down and he also has contracts with Racing TV and with Paddy Power.
Punchestown effectively brings the curtain down on the Jump Racing season so his loss will not be so keenly felt on a day to day basis until racing has got used to the idea of his not being around, at least in the weighing room and on the track, until next Autumn.
Then his loss will be as great as that of Tony McCoy who retired in 2015.
McCoy himself paid the ultimate tribute saying that Walsh “was the best jockey I ever saw or rode against. He’s like Lionel Messi playing football. You can’t teach kids to be like that, he’s just different.”
Image Credit: Tommy Dickson