Ruby Walsh was one of the most famous and successful jockeys in the world. He is the son of the former champion amateur jockey Ted Walsh and brother to jockey Katie Walsh. He won his first Irish amateur title in 1996/7 at just 18 years of age. And then again in 1997/8, before turning professional.
At just 20 years old he rode to victory in the Aintree Grand National in 2000 on Papillon. It was his first attempt and the horse was trained by his father. Father and son then went on to win the Irish Grand National with Commanche Court the same year.
In the 2004/5 season, Walsh won three of the four Nationals: the Irish on the 2006 Grand National winner, Numbersixvalverde, the Welsh on subsequent 2007 Grand National winner Silver Birch, and the English on Hedgehunter.
Prior to his retirement Walsh had ridden over 2,700 winners, including 59 winners at the Cheltenham Festival since his first win in 1998 on Alexander Banquet.
They include the 2007 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Kauto Star and a second Queen Mother success in 2008 on Master Minded.
He also scored a treble on the opening day of the 2013 Festival and in 2016 he won seven Cheltenham Festival races.
Winner of the leading rider’s award eleven times in fourteen years, as of 2019 is the Festival’s most successful rider with 59 wins.
Ruby Walsh And The Grand National
Walsh rode in 10 Grand Nationals winning twice.
In 2010, Walsh was injured in the same earlier race on the day when he fell from Zarkandar and could not compete in the National.
However, 2012 was another disappointment as history appeared to repeat itself but hoping that more luck was on his side in 2013, Walsh renewed his partnership with the Willie Mullins and Graham Wylie owned On His Own but it was not to be and he fell at Valentine’s on the second circuit.
A Cheltenham Festival fall in 2014 resulted in a compound fracture to his arm as the Irish champion jockey was enjoying a successful festival. Scoring victories with Faugheen, Vautour and partnering Quevega to her sixth straight win in the mares’ hurdle.
This fall came onboard Abbyssial in the JCB Triumph Hurdle. Walsh suffered a compound fracture to his right arm, which required surgery. Doctors reported the operation went well but a two month lay off was advised by medical staff. Ruling the two time Grand National winner out of the 2014 race.
For 2015 he was on board Ballycasey but was brought down at the Canal Turn. As luck would have it, he once again injured him at the Aintree Festival and was ruled out of the 2016 Grand National.
By 2017 he had paired with Pleasant company who he steered home in 9th place. But injury once again ruled him out in 2018 and David Mullins steered Pleasant Company home in second place.
For the 2019 Grand National, Ruby Walsh partnered second favourite, Rathvinden. Riding for Willie Mullins, his odds were short at around 9/1 and while he ran a great race, he could only manage 3rd place.
Ruby Walsh Retirement
The announcement that Ruby Walsh was to retire was a shock to everybody, including trainer Willie Mullins who had no idea that it was on the cards. It came at Punchestown on May 1st 2019 when Walsh rode Kemboy to victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
It was his 213th Grade One success and Walsh was done, ending his 24 career. Citing that he wanted it to feel like a celebration, Walsh had achieved everything he wanted from racing.
It also didn’t help that the sheer number of injuries he had sustained made his job even more difficult.
But Ruby Walsh hasn’t faded from the spotlight. He is a well-known Racing presenter and commentator and is always seen at the major festivals working for RTE, iTV and Racing TV.
Outside Of Racing
Ruby Walsh has a legend and, as such, has been recognised many times for his work in racing.
In 2012, he was part of the relay to bring the Olympic Torch to London. On its tour of the only city outside of the UK, the Olympic torch headed to Dublin on Wednesday 6th June and Dubliners lines the streets of the Republic’s capital to cheer on the torch bearers.
40 torchbearers took part in the historic six-hour trip south of the border and Grand National winning jockey Ruby Walsh was among them.
He was joined by Olympic-winning runners Sonia O’Sullivan and Ronnie Delany as well as former footballers and rugby stars who all took part in the event, which included a 44-metre high run along the Skyline roof at Croke Park stadium.
The torch passed several historical sites including the Garden of Remembrance, GPO, Custom House, River Liffey, Merrion Square, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Christchurch and Dublin Castle before arriving at St Stephen’s Green and going back to Northern Ireland.
Hall Of Fame
The accolades just kept coming for jockey Ruby Walsh, one of which was his induction into the Grand National Legends Hall of Fame.
He was one of five to be honoured after thousands of racing fans placed their votes on the Grand National Legends website with trainer Richard Pitman topping the poll.
Their names joined an illustrious list of star performers from the 1830s through to the present day such as Red Rum and Ginger McCain, Bob Champion, Sir Peter O’Sullevan and Jenny Pitman.
Also honoured in the same year were Trevor Hemmings, a leading UK owner and a huge supporter of Aintree, Golden Miller, the only horse ever to win the Gold Cup and Grand National in the same year (1934), and Dick Francis CBE, the writer, Champion Jockey and Racing Journalist.
Grand National Ambassador
In 2019 retired jockeys and siblings, Ruby and Katie Walsh, were named as the Racing Ambassadors for the 2020 Grand National Festival, 20 years after their family’s iconic Aintree win with Papillon.
With a total of 2,756 wins in Britain and a record 59 wins at the Cheltenham Festival, it was only right that Ruby became an Ambassador for the race he won twice.
The 40-year-old has since taken up punditry and said:
“If I’ve to point out an error a jockey has made, that’s the job now. Some will like it, some won’t, but that’s just the way it is.
“It’s obviously not a personal thing, just you’re reading the race as you see it and if someone does something wrong, you’ve got to highlight it.”
His sister Katie, meanwhile, is the second highest-placed female rider in Grand National history, having clocked a third-place finish on Seabass, also trained by her father, in 2012.
She participated in six Grand National events and only came up short once as it pertains to completing the course. The 34-year-old made her last Aintree run aboard Baie Des Isles, a horse trained by her husband Ross O’Sullivan.
Katie racked up nearly 200 wins over the course of her career, inclusive of three Cheltenham victories and an Irish Grand National triumph. She announced her retirement after riding Antey to a win in a novice’s hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in April of 2018.