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Career highlights of Ruby Walsh – Top Jockey in the history of the Cheltenham Festival

Steve Shoup

Ruby Walsh is now widely regarded as the top jockey in National hunt racing as he continues to have major success in many of the top races across Ireland and in the UK. He spent the majority of his early days riding for Champion trainer Paul Nicholls before moving over to Willie Mullins in Ireland which has resulted in more major success.

Ruby has been Champion Jockey in Ireland an incredible 12 times since the season of 1998/99 which just shows the domination he has had over many of the others. This is also backed up in the fact he has now surpassed over 2000 career wins. However it is his affiliation with the Cheltenham festival which has led to him becoming such a big name in horse racing and sport on a whole.

Walsh has been lucky enough to ride some of the greatest horses in the history of the sport with the mighty Kauto Star being at the top of that list. The multiple King George and Gold Cup winner led Ruby to some of his greatest days in the saddle. He had further success in the Gold cup aboard a stablemate of Kauto, Denham who turned out to be another modern day great.

The Cheltenham festival is the pinnacle of National hunt racing every year which is why the whole year is revolved around gearing a horse up to be ready for the big day come March. Two horses that certainly helped bolster Ruby’s now incredible record of 56 festival winners are Master Minded and the greatest staying hurdler in history; Big Bucks. Master Minded nearly reached prize money of £1 million throughout his stellar career as he gave Walsh two Queen Mother Champion chase victories on the biggest stage in 2008 and 2009.

Big Bucks achievements speak for themselves as he provided Walsh with four consecutive World hurdles in his dominating era between 2009 and 2012 to establish himself as one of the true greats of racing. Big Bucks was never too flashy but he would continue to find and out battle all opposition. He went through a period of just over 5 years without defeat and 18 consecutive victories before an injury lay off and defeat resulting in his retirement.

Looking to more recent years a lot of his major success has come down to being leading rider for Master trainer Willie Mullins. Another horse from Mullins who has helped to bolster his record was wonder Mare Quevega. What was so remarkable is she would make limited starts throughout her career but would always turn up on the biggest stage and provide the Irish with their banker of the festival on day one. She broke the previous record set my Champion Golden Miller in winning at 6 consecutive Cheltenham festivals.

If you asked Ruby about a horse that transcends his time in National hunt racing then the ever reliable Hurricane Fly would sure to be one of the first names mentioned. Known to be very feisty and badly behaved off the track he certainly made up for that when racing. Fly was a fairly remarkable horse who started his career on the flat before moving to Mullins in Ireland. He finished with 24 victories in his 32 starts over hurdles. Fly provided Walsh with two Cheltenham festival Champion hurdle victories in 2011 and 2013 but it was his domination in Ireland which made the horse so special.

Fly was successful in 5 consecutive Irish Champion hurdles between 2011 and 2015 and at the time was seen as being almost unbeatable at his favoured Leopardstown track. He retired in August 2015 with earnings of nearly £2 million and his trainer Mullins calling him ‘the horse of a generation’. A true modern day great of racing.

With further key successes in recent times aboard the likes of Faugheen, Douvan and Annie Power it is clear Ruby’s domination of Cheltenham is not likely to end anytime soon as he gears up to return from injury in time for March. He will be hoping to match or surpass his previous record breaking year in 2016 where he finished with 7 winners across the famous four days. The latest Cheltenham odds have Ruby as the clear favourite to again be the leading rider at the 2018 festival.



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