Ruby Walsh retired from the saddle yesterday after his superb win in the Punchestown Gold Cup on board Kemboy. We have looked back at some of his best rides during his esteemed career.
Ruby Walsh's Top Five Rides.
1. Hedgehunter – 2005 Grand National
The Trevor Hemmings-owned Hedgehunter provided Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins with a winner in the world’s greatest steeplechase – the Grand National, five years after Walsh won his first.
Desperately unlucky the year before when falling at the last disputing third under David Casey, the County Kildare-born rider took over and gave the nine–year-old an absolute peach of a ride.
Sent off the 7/1 favourite, he avoided some considerable trouble at Becher’s at the second time of asking, and it was only really at the iconic elbow where the-then young jockey asked his mount for maximum effort, and the horse’s response was imminent; matching his mount’s urgings.
Given the dynamics of the race, Ruby soaked up the pressure and awarded faithful punters with just the third winning favourite of the Aintree highlight in the last twenty-two years.
2. Big Bucks – 2011 World Hurdle
Big Bucks was arguably the star hurdler for Ruby Walsh in his Paul Nicholls days, who set a record just passed by Altior for eighteen consecutive victories under rules.
He won four straight Stayers/World Hurdles between 2009 and 2012 for the Stewart Family, but the pick of the bunch was in 2011, when his optimum ability to get drive horses home in more animated fashion was really called into action.
Despite arriving as a dual-winner of the race, Walsh had to work much harder than he probably anticipated as he dropped his whip in between the final two flights up the Cheltenham hill.
With no form of equipment to set reminders to the horse or to wake him up, it was merely Ruby’s brilliance that got him past the line in front ahead of the young pretender Grands Crus.
Big Buck’s even hung badly left to make the task event more difficult, but the brilliance of his rider allowed the pair to emulate the achievements of Inglis Drever a few years earlier.
As mentioned, he won his fourth World Hurdle in 2012 as the 5/6 favourite, and retired later in 2014 after several problems off the track in 2013.
3. Kauto Star – 2011 King George VI Chase
You could argue Kauto Star was one the greatest horses in National Hunt history, let-alone one of Ruby Walsh’s best ever mounts.
Aside from his memorable exploits in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, of which he regained from stablemate Denman in 2009 – who Walsh also rode to victory in the Hennessy, Kauto Star made history in the colours of Clive Smith by winning five King George VI Chase’s at Kempton Box, the last of which in 2011.
A contest Paul Nicholls has now won ten times – half of which thanks to Kauto, Ruby Walsh sent Christmas racegoers up and down the land into ecstasy, consolidating the-then eleven-year-old as one of the most decorated horse’s in history since the great Arkle.
Now with a race named after him at the Sunbury venue, he was unfancied to win on what was his penultimate appearance on the racetrack, as Long Run – almost half his age was the new boy on the scene.
Smashed up by Nicky Henderson’s charge the renewal before (took place in January of the same year due to snow), the steeplechaser of a lifetime got his revenge, and jumped better than he ever did under a foot-perfect Ruby Walsh.
4. Annie Power - 2016 Champion Hurdle
Moving back to Ireland to be closer to his young family did leave a bit of a sting in the tail for Paul Nicholls and those close to him at Ditcheat. He teamed up with Irish maestro Willie Mullins, and the two combined to dominate the leading English and Irish festivals with an abundance of talented winners mostly imported from France.
In 2016, with all the pressure on his shoulders bearing down on him; particularly given what happened in the Mares Hurdle under the same horse twelve months prior, Ruby superbly guided the mare Annie Power to victory in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Subbing in for stablemate Faugheen after injury ruled him out of his title defence, the eight–year-old stepped in and duly obliged for the same ownership of Rich and Susannah Ricci, after they stumped up £20,000 to supplement her for the Grade One.
The relief from the crowd as she jumped the final flight – the same hurdle she came to grief with before, proved how good Walsh handled his nerves as well as the big occasion, and it was evident to see what it meant to him as he crossed the line in front.
Annie Power – who retired after her emphatic display at Aintree on her following start, became the first mare in twenty-two years to win the two-mile Championship contest.
5. Footpad – 2018 Racing Post Arkle
Perhaps not one of his most famous rides; especially what the horse has done since, but the ride Walsh gave Footpad in the 2018 Arkle Novices Chase will be one to saviour at the Festival for many years.
Allowing Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados to fire away from the start to set a blistering pace, the eleven-times leading jockey at the Festival was content to sit well off the front duo, and judged his ride to perfection down the back straight as the six-year-old still had plenty in reserve.
Sadly, the now thirty-nine-year-old did not ride any further winners in 2018 after suffering a reoccurrence of his broken leg when falling aboard Al Boum Photo in the RSA Novices Chase behind Presenting Percy.
He added one final winner at the prestigious meeting in 2019 when guiding Klassical Dream to victory in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, making it 59 wins at the Cheltenham Festival in total.
A motionless Ruby Walsh was one of the greatest sights in sport let-alone racing; he just had that sensational style about him, and his sad retirement signals the end of ‘Ruby Tuesdays’.