Sunday 22 September 2019

'I was retiring, I wasn't dying!' - Ruby Walsh on calling time and what he whispered to Willie Mullins after final race

Golden handshake: Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins celebrate with the Gold Cup after Kemboy's success at Punchestown
Golden handshake: Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins celebrate with the Gold Cup after Kemboy's success at Punchestown

Paul Phillips

Ruby Walsh wanted his retirement to feel like a celebration when he called time on his illustrious career at Punchestown yesterday.

The 39-year-old rider decided to end his brilliant career in the saddle following a two-length victory aboard Willie Mullins' Kemboy in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup onm Wednesday.

He retires having ridden over 2,500 winners and with more Cheltenham Festival successes to his name than any other rider in history.

Walsh revealed today that only his mam and dad, sister and agent Jennifer and his wife Gillian knew about the decision and Willie Mullins only found out when he got down off the horse at the Kildare. 

"Only my mum, dad and Jennifer (sister and agent) knew. And my wife Gillian of course," wrote Walsh on Paddy Power.

"She knew a long time ago. But that was it, I told nobody else. I got down off a horse and told my boss as I always said I would."

Katie and Ruby Walsh
Katie and Ruby Walsh

And he revealed exactly what he said in Willie's ear after he dismounted.

"I said you may get someone else to ride him (Livelovelaugh) in the next. Willie knew immediately that I was serious. He just looked me in the eye and shook my hand."

Walsh hopes to continue to play a part for Mullins' stable after he stunned the racing world with his retirement announcement.

Speaking on Racing TV, Walsh confirmed his aim to remain directly involved at Mullins' yard.

"I hope to have a role there," he said.

"It's been part of my life since I left school.

"I'd like to stay fit - I don't plan on getting too heavy - so yes, of course, I'd like to have a role there.

"We'll have a chat about it, and see how it works out for everyone."

Ruby Walsh goes out with a splash as he is soaked by fellow jockeys after announcing his retirement from racing only minutes after steering Kemboy to victory
in the Punchestown Gold Cup at yesterday. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Ruby Walsh goes out with a splash as he is soaked by fellow jockeys after announcing his retirement from racing only minutes after steering Kemboy to victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup at yesterday. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Walsh explained why he believes he and Mullins had such a successful relationship.

"I'd say trust made it work," he said.

"You're always involved, and Willie likes input - you can see that with staff and the way the yard is set up and the system it works on.

"He's ultimately in charge, but he does expect you to be thinking outside the box."

The way Walsh's last day in the saddle worked out provided him with the perfect finale.

"You're hoping to find a fairytale way of getting out, and it was a great way to to do it," he said.

"It was a great day, great that (wife) Gillian and the girls (daughters) were here.

"It's a bit of a blur, but it was lovely to get such a warm send-off.

"But to me, it was more important to walk away on the big stage with a big winner - and I was lucky enough to be able to do that."

Members of the Supreme Racing Club, who own Kemboy, could not believe their luck at being part of racing history.

Steve Massey, racing manager for the successful syndicate, said: "It's absolutely unbelievable. I don't think any of us saw it coming.

"Ruby is an absolute superstar and a fantastic horseman. To me, he's the best National Hunt jockey there's ever been.

"He's a complete professional and a total gent, and it's fantastic for him and his family that he's gone out on a high.

"It still hasn't really sunk in that he's retired, and for him to ride his last ever winner in our colours is just incredible.

"It's a day none of us will ever forget."

Arguably the greatest horse Walsh ever rode was Kauto Star - record-breaking five-time winner of the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the only horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Kauto Star's owner Clive Smith paid a fitting tribute to the great jockey.

Smith said: "Ruby did a wonderful job for me as an owner. He did incredibly well, coming over from Ireland to ride Kauto and Master Minded and Big Buck's.

"He's a real sportsman and a professional jockey of the highest order - he always rode so well under pressure."

Another owner for whom Walsh enjoyed multiple big-race wins is John Hales - including two Punchestown Gold Cups on Neptune Collonges and the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Azertyuiop.

"I owe Ruby a great deal," said Hales.

"When he went past the post yesterday he signalled his five Punchestown Gold Cup wins, and two of those were on Neptune Collonges.

"He's a great guy and a great jockey. He's suffered some horrendous injuries, but he's always had the guts to come back and carry on."

Additional reporting by PA

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