Ruby Walsh’s 6 greatest partnerships
Yesterday legendary jockey Ruby Walsh announced his retirement from racing with immediate effect at Punchestown. In fitting style, he told racing’s media of his plan having just won the Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup on Kemboy, with a ride of a jockey at the very top of his game. It was another top-level victory to add to a very substantial trophy cabinet, in a career which has seen him become a household name in the sport of kings.
In a career spanning over 20 years, Ruby has become synonymous with the big Festivals like Cheltenham and Aintree, and will be remembered for all the great partnerships he forged with some of the biggest names to grace National Hunt racing. We’ve selected 6 of those partnerships which have stood out over his glittering time in the saddle.
Kauto, Ruby, Nicholls. A truly magical racing combination. All three of them at their peak were an unstoppable force on the racetrack. Few will forget the epic Cheltenham Gold Cup duels between Kauto Star and Denman in 2008 and 2009, where Kauto and Ruby achieved legendary status by becoming the first partnership to regain the Gold Cup in the 2009 renewal.
Kauto and Ruby would amass a wealth of high profile Grade 1 victories. These included a record five King George VI Chases, four Betfair Chases, two Tingle Creeks and over £3.7m in earnings. A truly awesome partnership.
One of the finest and most consistent two-mile hurdlers the Jumps game has ever seen, Hurricane Fly won a record 22 Grade One National Hunt races. Of those 22 victories at the top level he was partnered by the mercurial Walsh on no less than 16 occasions, with their four shared wins in the Irish Champion Hurdle a particular highlight.
The combination of the horse’s iron will to win and Ruby’s ability to eke out every last drop of effort was never better demonstrated than in their final Irish Champion Hurdle win in 2015; when Walsh and “The Fly” outbattled his great friend AP McCoy aboard fellow Champion Hurdler Jezki.
Having seemingly travelled through the race with less authority than usual, Walsh moved Hurricane Fly up to challenge McCoy and Jezki on the home turn. The horses and jockeys then eyeballed each other up the Leopardstown straight before the sheer pressure of the race saw Jezki make an error at the last hurdle, allowing Walsh and Hurricane Fly to run out convincing winners.
Upon the horse’s retirement in 2015 Walsh commented, “Quite simply, Hurricane Fly is the best hurdler I have ever sat on”. Lofty praise indeed from a jockey who’s ridden more Grade 1 winners over hurdles than any other.
Ruby has carried the iconic Rich Ricci silks on board many great horses, but few brought him as much long term success as Faugheen “the machine”. He rode him for 16 of his 22 races under rules, winning 10 times including two Christmas Hurdles, and both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Champion Hurdles. Between 2013 and 2015 the pair were nothing short of invincible, winning over any distance and at any course, stylishly dismissing any rival.
Amidst injury concerns, his form started to drift but Ruby’s bond with the horse was clear – amicably pulling him up and dismounting at the slightest sign of Faugheen not seeming himself at Aintree this year. This was all the more honourable given Ruby’s desire win and is a tremendous testament to his love for the horses. Despite Faugheen’s troubles, he still retains enormous ability. The pair will always be remembered for their multiple demolition jobs at the very highest level and era of total domination.
Although coming up against Denman many times with his arch rival Kauto Star, Ruby and ‘The Tank’ enjoyed some incredible days together with multiple big race successes.
As well as three Grade Ones, Ruby partnered Denman to seven of his 14 victories, including the epic 10 length victory in the 2007 RSA Chase. It was Ruby’s 13th Cheltenham Festival victory, he would go on to win a further 46 Festival races and become the most successful jockey in Cheltenham Festival history!
However, the biggest win Ruby and Denman had together was the 2009 Hennessey. The Paul Nicholls’ charge went off as a well fancied favourite despite carrying a whole stone more than any of his rivals.
Ruby tracked the leaders throughout before he patiently maneuvered his superstar to the front whilst Denman’s continued jumping excellence made such a task look easy.
The pair stayed on gamely to claim victory, the perfect performance by both horse and rider.
Up until Altior’s victory last weekend it was Paul Nicholls’ Big Bucks who held the record for the most consecutive victories on the National Hunt circuit. Ruby was the man on board for 16 of those 18 runs.
Their time as a partnership included victories in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle (2009, 2011), the Long Distance Hurdle (2009, 2011, 2012), the Liverpool Hurdle during the Grand National Meeting (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) and the World Hurdle known now as the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The duo won an incredible four consecutive years at Prestbury Park (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) all but confirming his status as the greatest staying hurdler in history.
Ruby enthused after the his fourth and final World Hurdle victgory “He’s an amazing horse. We went a good gallop and sprinted off the bend when he got to the running rail.
“The way Paul’s horses had been running they were starting to doubt but boy this lad is good”
“It was disbelief. I never thought that I would ever win a Grand National. As a kid growing up Irish horses never competed in the English Grand National. It wasn’t something I ever thought I’d achieve.
“To me it was the greatest day I ever had in racing.”
Ruby’s first ever win on the biggest stage of them all, the 2000 Grand National, was extra special as the horse he rode to victory, Papillon, was trained by his father Ted Walsh. Ruby would win the race again 5 years later on Hedgehunter for Willie mullins.