After banner day at Cheltenham Willie Mullins lauds Ruby Walsh as 'the best that's ever ridden for me'
Willie Mullins hailed Ruby Walsh "the best jockey I've had ride for me" after the rider recorded his 50th career success on day three of the Cheltenham Festival
Mullins and Walsh combined for the first time to score at the Festival when Alexander Banquet won the Champion Bumper in 1998, when the pilot was a mere 18-year-old.
Since then Walsh has been unstoppable at Britain's biggest jumps meeting of the year, winning big race after big race for trainers like Mullins and Paul Nicholls to become the most successful jockey in its history.
The landmark triumph came on Black Hercules (4-1 co-favourite) in the JLT Novices' Chase and was followed by two more on Vautour (even-money favourite) in the Ryanair Chase and Limini (8-11 favourite) in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle to take his tally for the week to seven.
He now has what looks an assailable lead to be top jockey at the Festival for a 10th time.
"He's the best jockey I've ever had riding for me," said Mullins, who stands one off his all-time record of eight for the week, set last year. "From the time I saw him as a 7lb claimer, he was different gravy and he still is. I first saw him riding a winner at Gowran Park and was impressed.
"When I next saw him, I was meant to be riding one of my own, but I got hungry and wanted to have lunch so said to Ted (Walsh, Ruby's father) 'where's Ruby?' as I wanted him to ride it.
"Ruby was at home watching TV or something but he came straight over and rode the horse for me. My last ever ride was a winner and I beat him a short head and I came back in and said I'd hang up my boots and that's was enough. We couldn't imagine that this would all happen all these years later, but I did know that Ruby was going to be a top, top jockey.
"His first winner for me was a little filly, who was a relation to Snow Drop (who won the 2000 JCB Triumph Hurdle), in an 18- or 19-runner bumper at Leopardstown and he came from last to first to win on her.
"It was a terrific ride and I thought 'that's the future' - it was only his second or third winner in his life. For a kid to give her a ride like that was just amazing. He just oozes class and he's always in the right place at the right time in a race."
Owner Rich Ricci, for whom Walsh has carried his colours to victory this week five times, including on Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle, was also full of praise for the jockey.
"He's unbelievable. The thing people forget about Ruby is he's a very intelligent guy," said Ricci. "He thinks so much about what he's doing, everything is for a purpose.
"He's incredibly well prepared, he's incredibly professional and he's the must thoughtful man I know, about anything. He takes the time to think through things, pictures it in his mind and then executes.
"He's brilliant and he'd be good at anything he'd do in life."
Elsewhere, Mall Dini was a popular winner of the Pertemps Final on a day when Irish-trained runners dominated. Davy Russell did the steering for Pat Kelly and it was swift redemption for the jockey who was dumped at the start of the JLT from Zabana.
Russell said: "He's still a novice, all credit goes to Pat Kelly. What a man, not many people know him, he's a very shrewd man from Galway."
Cause Of Causes (9-2) flew home for Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd in the Kim Muir, while 16-1 chance Empire Of Dirt struck for Colm Murphy and Bryan Cooper in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.
The sole British-trained success was not a bad one, though, as Thistlecrack (even-money favourite) sizzled in winning the Ryanair World Hurdle under Tom Scudamore for Colin Tizzard.