Relentless Ruby happy to let his talent do talking
Published 14/03/2010 | 05:00
Ruby Walsh is famous enough, thanks very much. With all the hottest rides at this week's Cheltenham Festival, he has no urge to join the personality cult England's Racing For Change initiative is pushing to spread the magic outside the sport's heartland.
In the new culture, daredevil jump jockeys would be billboard stars, locked in combat around Cheltenham's dangerous Eden. But Kauto Star's rider would rather the action did the talking.
"I can't see the point. It's waffle," he says. "Popularity will only make racing more popular, won't it? If I sell my soul to the devil and stand in front of every TV camera, that's not going to make more people go racing, is it? Or, I don't think it is. Whether I do or Tony McCoy or Choc [Robert Thornton] or any of the top jockeys do it's not going to make more people come racing. You make more people come racing by the entertainment on the track, not off it.
"Paul Scholes [of Manchester United] is a quiet fella. He's not sat in front of every camera yet he's a popular footballer. Ryan Moore [a leading English Flat jockey] is a shy man and shouldn't be forced in front of cameras to express his point of view. He's a jockey, not a showman.
"I think we do our bit. Some are better talkers than others. Horse racing is as much about horses as jockeys and trainers and we have great horses at the moment. You're expected to do your job, which is riding in races, so it's a bit unfair when you're riding at Cheltenham to be asked to stand outside the weighing room for 20 minutes before the first [to be interviewed] when there's important racing on. It has to have a human quality and that head-to-head element, because it's sport and everyone has their favourite. But I don't know . . ."
Walsh versus McCoy is the exquisite subtext of the rematch between Kauto Star and Denman. The score is one apiece in Gold Cups when the two horses have faced each other, so this is The Decider.
The agony for Walsh, as stable jockey to the omni-powerful Paul Nicholls yard in Somerset, is that he is obliged to choose between two champions.
"Maybe the lads in the Michael Dickinson yard had it when they had the first five home in the Gold Cup [in 1983]. Maybe one of them had to get off something. Listen, I got it right once, I got it wrong once. We'll know on Friday whether my judgement is right again. But I can't ride them both, that's something I've been resigned to for a quite a few years now."
As he runs through his mounts, he recites some star names he will not be riding, and you start to see that this is a jockey who wants the next generation of greats under his dominion as well.
"In the novice races I don't ride Dunguib [the opening race dead cert], I don't ride Captain Cee Bee or Sizing Europe or Somersby [Arkle Chase] and I'm not riding Long Run or Punchestowns [RSA Chase]. I've got good rides but I don't have a stand-out novice."