1 PURE NATURAL TALENT
His father Ted (right) was a crack amateur who won the Champion Chase on Hilly Way, his sister Katie is a leading female rider. He was virtually born on a pony. He is a natural horseman with an in-built empathy for a horse, so much so that he could probably have gone to the top of whichever equestrian discipline he had chosen.
If he has a weakness as a jockey it is a susceptibility to injury, but otherwise he is probably the best since John Francome and Richard Dunwoody at presenting a horse at a fence. Tactically he is rarely out of position and nearly always in the right place at the right time which ties in with his exemplary judgment of pace. He knows his horses, thinks deeply about them and is intelligent. He is quite prepared to discard a pre-planned tactic and use his initiative if a race unfolds unexpectedly.
"What sets him apart," says Willie Mullins, "is his knowledge of the track and a knowledge not only of his own rides but a deep knowledge of the opposition."
2 BIG RACE EXPERIENCE
Walsh is the most successful jockey of all time at the Festival with 34 winners, seven more than the next most successful AP McCoy (above). He has been leading jockey at the fixture no less than six times since 2004, and in 2009 set the record for most wins at one Festival when winning an astounding seven races – which equated to one win in every three races he was eligible to ride in.
Success breeds confidence and confidence feeds through the reins to the horses and that breeds more success. Even on a week in, week out basis his list of big-race winners comfortably outshines McCoy and his quality over quantity approach has paid enormous dividends.
"Like all the best sportsmen he makes it look easy," points out Francome. "If I had the favourite in the Champion Hurdle there are four or five jockeys I wouldn't mind riding it, but if you asked me which one I'd want to watch riding it, I say Ruby every time."
Whatever anyone says, there is enormous pressure attached to riding horses like Kauto Star or Big Buck's, and there will be huge pressure riding Quevega today as she goes for a fifth consecutive OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
Sure you enjoy it afterwards, but at the time? Given a family background steeped in racing and horses, Walsh not only copes extremely well with pressure, he seems to thrive on it. Equally he is well able to take a reverse, pulling up Kauto Star in last year's Gold Cup for example, in his stride.
"He has a fantastic temperament for a big race," suggests former trainer Ian Balding. "He's so patient. He never seems to be hurrying his horses."
4 PICK OF THE RIDES
Walsh has the pick of the rides for both the British champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, and the Irish champion, Willie Mullins (right), two of the three most powerful yards in these islands. Few jockeys would have the personality, diplomacy or ability to meet the demands of both men.
While most of the winter it is simple, Saturdays in Britain, Sundays back home in Ireland, both trainers have multiple runners in each race at the Festival. Walsh not only picks the right one 19 times out of 20 but seems to keep both remarkably happy and retains a great personal as well as professional relationship with both Nicholls and Mullins.
Essential in any trainer-jockey relationship is the post-race feedback a jockey gives a trainer when he gets off a horse.
A trainer will want to know if he is running a horse over the right trip, on the right ground, over the right obstacles, how fit it is, whether it is better going left or right-handed, how it might be improved. Some good jockeys have failed because they can't talk after a race and some lesser jockeys have succeeded principally because they give an accurate and informative debrief.
Gone are the days when a jockey would dismount after a big race, sum up the horse in three words (two of which were expletives) and stomp off back to the weighing room.
You often hear Nicholls (above) after winning yet another big race saying that Ruby suggested the horse be aimed at that race months or years previously.
"He's always thinking," says Nicholls. (© Daily Telegraph, London)