The best, and worst thing about all of this is that Ruby Walsh is bowing out at the very peak of his powers.
His final hour showed just that. Kemboy pulled and dragged him around Punchestown for three full miles on Wednesday afternoon but Walsh didn’t even flinch. He bided his time, eased his horse into the race and then bang, went for broke at exactly the perfect moment.
Like God himself couldn’t have done.
This is exactly what Ruby has been doing for the last 24 years, it’s what sets him apart, it’s what makes him the greatest.
Ruby Walsh is 40 now. He could have stayed going, and stayed winning for five more years but when all the emotion, excitement and commotion is taken out of it, now is the perfect time.
In one piece, relatively unscathed and at the very top. That’s fitting. It’s also the least he deserved.
“He genuinely had no weakness,” said AP McCoy on Racing TV, before dubbing Ruby as the greatest there ever was.
We take a look back at the memorable moments that illuminated his career.
Gowran Park 1995
Kilkenny in 1995 and a 16-year-old is making noise. Siren Song goes in the bumper and a fresh faced Ruby Walsh is aboard. A well judged ride grants him his first ever national hunt winner, the first of many.
It’s Cheltenham Wednesday and Ruby Walsh is given the leg for one of his first ever Cheltenham rides. He doesn’t need long to settle in though, and pilots Willie Mullins’ charge Alexander Banquet to a glorious triumph.
“I was so young back then but you never forget your first and he was a wonderful horse for my career,” he said 20 years ago.
His first ever Cheltenham winner.
It’s April 2000 and Ruby Walsh is well on his way. His father Ted saddles a gem in the Aintree Grand National and Ruby is booked in for his first ever spin around the iconic Liverpool steeplechase.
The rest as they say, is history. This still lives on above all others as Ruby’s “greatest day ever.”
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 1, 2019
Grand National kings. A former Triumph Hurdle winner, Commanche Court came into the 2000 Irish Grand National with a heavy weight and a short price.
It was days like these that defined Ruby Walsh.
As he said himself yesterday in his sign off interview with RTÉ, he was always taught to live for the big occasion. This, just like the Aintree showpiece a couple of days earlier, was the biggest and Ruby had it mastered by the time he was 20.
Commanche galloped up the Fairhouse straight under yet another majestic ride.
His Irish heroics had them taking note across the water and Paul Nicholls had his eye on the young Kildare man. An ambitious, hungry Walsh didn’t need a second invitation. He opted to divvy his rides between Ireland and England, between Mullins and Nicholls – and this would help him take over the game.
2002 was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Nicholls, and Azertyuiop was one of their first ever great things.
John Hales’ charge won his three chases in 2003, and followed it up with an Arkle triumph in March.
Azertyuiop was a horse Walsh would go on to have a rich relationship with, the pair sealing Champion Chase glory the following year.
His success would also send Walsh and Nicholls in the right direction, national hunt legends like Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded and Big Bucks winning for them later on.
There isn’t a a more iconic horse and jockey duo in horse racing in this millennium than Walsh and Kauto Star. It was in 2007 when they won their first Gold Cup, but 2009 was arguably their most impressive blue riband triumph.
Having been beaten by stablemate Denman the year before, the pressure was on Walsh and the apple of his eye. But they stormed up the Cheltenham hill in a peerless performance.
? March 13, 2009
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 1, 2019
This was also the festival that saw Walsh land the first of his four World Hurdles with partner Big Bucks.
Hurricane Fly and Walsh dominated the hurdling game in their prime and their most impressive feat was regaining the Champion Hurdle in 2013.
It was the Fly against Rock on Ruby, Willie Mullins’ champion ground it out.
5⃣ weeks to go until *that* roar on Day One: Champion Day ?
Let's throw it back to the extraordinary Hurricane Fly in 2013 winning his second Champion Hurdle
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) February 5, 2019
Willie Mullins and Walsh were on the verge of an open day festival fourfold when Annie Power strode clear of the rest of the mares around the bend.
What happened next will never be forgotten.
— Punchestown Festival Betting Tips (@ThatsBettingTip) March 11, 2019
The most expensive bullet the bookmaking industry has ever dodged.
After piloting Kemboy to Punchetown Gold Cup glory, Walsh opted to bow out from the game, some 2768 National hunt winners later.
His interview with Kevin O’Ryan on Racing TV captured his colourful, and brave personality brilliantly.
His response about his darkest hour at Cheltenham 2018 – where he broke his leg after a fall on Al Boum Photo sums this man up. He was down, but he wasn’t out.
“I lay there thinking, this isn’t how I’m going to finish, I’m going to be back…”
"I got to live my dream. I've just been so lucky."
One of the greats – happy retirement from the saddle, Ruby ? pic.twitter.com/muygq3NM0e
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 1, 2019
That’s what it took.