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'If you can get off to a good start, it takes a bit of pressure off' - How Paul Townend is filling Ruby's boots

Champion jockey hails the support of Closutton maestro Mullins as he aims to follow in the footsteps of Walsh and praises fellow Corkman Donnelly for sticking by him after his mistake aboard Al Boum Photo at Punchestown

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DELIGHT: Jockey Paul Townend celebrates after winning the Gold Cup on Al Boum Photo
at the Cheltenham Racing Festival in March. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

DELIGHT: Jockey Paul Townend celebrates after winning the Gold Cup on Al Boum Photo at the Cheltenham Racing Festival in March. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

DELIGHT: Jockey Paul Townend celebrates after winning the Gold Cup on Al Boum Photo at the Cheltenham Racing Festival in March. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

How do you go about filling boots that simply can't be filled? That was the question which Paul Townend was left to ponder on this day 12 months ago, when Ruby Walsh shocked the racing world and retired from the saddle, leaving a trail of high-profile winners in his rear-view mirror.

Townend knew the day would eventually come when he would take over racing’s most prized position as first jockey to Willie Mullins and the Cork pilot has delivered in sensational style to quickly leave his own calling card.

His first real day “in the limelight” came at Auteuil in mid-May, when Benie Des Dieux lowered the colours of Francois Nicolle’s brilliant mare De Bon Coeur in the French Champion Hurdle – and he has achieved much success in the year that followed.