Ruby Walsh: a Cheltenham Festival legend

Tipsters Review - 27-Nov-2019

Ruby Walsh: a Cheltenham Festival legend


With the jumps season already underway, attention now turns to one of the biggest and most prestigious meetings in the horse racing calendar, the Cheltenham Festival. 28 races will be contested over four days with the meeting boasting a handsome purse – the prize money up for grabs sits second only to the Grand National. But this year, you’ll find one notable absentee from the Cheltenham races betting odds: jockey Ruby Walsh. The 11-time Top Jockey at Cheltenham announced his retirement back in May, but will forever be regarded as a Festival legend.

During a riding career which spanned 24 years, Walsh rode over 2,700 winners, recording 59 victories at the Cheltenham Festival. He was the Irish National Hunt champion jockey a remarkable 12 times and ended his career in some style too, winning the Punchestown Gold Cup on the favourite Kemboy to secure his 213th Grade One win. After waving to the crowd, Walsh said: “That’s it, you’ll never see me on a horse again – I’m finished. I’m not going out for the next one.”

Cheltenham Champion

The Kildare-born jockey first won at Cheltenham in 1998, riding Alexander Banquet to success in the Champion Bumper, some four years after his maiden winner at Gowran Park.

When it came to Prestbury Park, Walsh was a record-breaker. Twice he rode seven winners at a single Festival, first in 2009 and then in 2016. In 2017, he went one better and became the first jockey in history to win four races on the same day of the festival, dominating day three, and his winning quartet were all trained by Willie Mullins. Such was his skill, Walsh was fortunate enough to have the pick of the horses from both Mullins’ and Paul Nicholls’ yards, which contributed to his success.

His record speaks for itself: two Gold Cup wins (Kauto Star, 2007 and 2009), four Champion Hurdles (Hurricane Fly, 2011 and 2013; Faugheen, 2015; and Annie Power, 2016), and a trio of Queen Mother Champion Chase wins (Azertyuiop, 2004; and Master Minded, 2008 and 2009).

His final Cheltenham Festival win came in 2019’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the first event on opening day. The famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’ spurred Walsh to victory, saddling Klassical Dream against his market odds of 6/1. It was Walsh’s sixth win in the curtain-raiser, but his first since 2015.

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Of course, he had other notable successes away from Cheltenham: two wins at both the Aintree and Irish Grand National, two Irish Gold Cup wins and seven victories at the Punchestown Gold Cup. With a lengthy list of achievements, few will come close to matching his tally. Legendary jockey, AP McCoy described Walsh as the “Messi of racing”, before going on to say: “He's a genius. You knew you had to be on your A-game to be competing with someone like him. He was just better on a horse than everyone, that was the long and short of it.”

There’s no doubt that the Festival won’t be the same without him riding to victory, while the crowds chant their best rendition of the Kaiser Chiefs hit ‘Ruby’. But one thing’s for sure, Walsh’s legacy will live on – not only at Prestbury Park but etched into horse racing folklore.

 


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