'That's it, it's all over' - Ruby Walsh ends dazzling career after farewell win
Ruby Walsh has stunned the racing world by announcing his retirement with immediate effect after his win on Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday, bringing the curtain down on a superb career spanning 24 years.
"That’s it," said Walsh. "When you’re going out at Punchestown, you go out on a winner. You’ll never again see me on a horse – I’m finished. That’s it – it’s all over."
Walsh, 39, the second child and elder son of trainer and former champion amateur jockey Ted and his wife Helen, has been largely associated with racing powerhouses Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls throughout his career and in the limelight for more than two decades since his first win in July 1995.
"It’s brilliant," he added, "I’ve had an incredible career. It’s all about big races and you want to go out on a big one. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. Punchestown is home, and it’s time for something new. Nothing lasts forever."
Walsh could barely have gone out on a bigger high, as Kemboy and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning stablemate Al Boum Photo locked horns in a thrilling climax to the meeting's showpiece race, with Kemboy staying on better to beat Al Boum Photo by two lengths.
Mullins had a 1-2-4 in the race with Bellshill in fourth, behind The Storyteller. Definitly Red showed up well for a long way but Walsh never panicked despite being in a tussle for the lead, and Kemboy showed what might have been in the Gold Cup, in which he had unseated David Mullins at the first fence.
Walsh's talent was immediately obvious to all as he claimed the Irish amateur jockeys' title in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons before turning professional.
He stamped his authority on the Irish jump jockeys' championship, winning it during his first season as a professional and a further 11 times since.
Cheltenham is where the legends of jump racing confirm their place in history. Walsh has certainly done that as the festival's all-time leading rider, winning 59 festival races and being crowned top jockey at the prestigious meeting 11 times.
His Cheltenham triumphs include three Queen Mother Champion Chase wins, with two on Master Minded and the other on Azertyuiop. Walsh won two Cheltenham Gold Cups on the brilliant Kauto Star in 2007 and 2009, and shares the record for most wins in the Champion Hurdle – his four coming on Hurricane Fly (twice), Faugheen and Annie Power.
He also holds the record in the Stayers' Hurdle with five victories. Four of those came in consecutive years on Big Buck's, with Nichols Canyon providing his last success in the race in 2017.
The festival has not always been kind to Walsh, with the jockey sustaining several severe injuries at the meeting and famously falling on Annie Power in the 2015 Mares' Hurdle, with the favourite's exit reckoned to have saved the bookmaking industry around £50 million in accumulator liabilities.
Walsh will also go down in Aintree folklore with his two wins in the Grand National on Papillon in 2000 for his father Ted and Hedgehunter in 2005 for Mullins and owner Trevor Hemmings.
Walsh completed the quadruple of wins in the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh Nationals when Silver Birch won at Chepstow in 2004. He won the Irish equivalent on Commanche Court in 2000 and for a second time on Numbersixvalverde in 2005, while his Scottish National success came on Take Control in 2002.
In total, Walsh won 2,756 races over jumps in Ireland and Britain, which ranks him third to Sir Anthony McCoy and Richard Johnson among the winningmost jump jockeys of all time. His richest win came in Japan, in the 2013 Nakayama Grand Jump on Blackstairmountain, and he also won the French Champion Hurdle twice on Thousand Stars.
His career highlights also include a record five King George VI Chases on Kauto Star - they won the 2009 renewal by 36 lengths - 16 consecutive wins on Big Buck's and 16 Grade 1 victories on Hurricane Fly.
Don't miss all of the follow-up to Ruby Walsh's retirement in Thursday's special edition of the Racing Post