Paddy Power (well, he’s Paddy Power, so…)
So, the GOAT will ride no more. There’ll be gushings-aplenty of well deserved praise and admiration for the countless times he’s left race-watchers shaking their heads and smiling knowingly to themselves at the genius they had just witnessed.
I remember meeting up with Ruby in a hotel in Dublin to chat about him becoming a Paddy Power ambassador. I expected him to be a bit of a grump.
As it turns out, it must have been the easiest negotiation ever. There were no agents or lawyers or anything like that involved. The contract was an email from me to him with a handful of bulletpoints, and a reply from him saying simply: “that’ll do.”
I soon learned that he just couldn’t bear spoofers and a**holes and wouldn’t waste his time on them. He’s very polite and respectful, but if someone is rude or aggressive to him he’s not shy about giving both barrels back!
Like any champion, he’s obviously completely driven and very focused, but in my experience, it was never all about racing. Every time he’d come in for filming or interviews or press conferences, he was full of questions about how the whole thing worked and why we did it that way.
We’ve made some pretty cool stuff together, with “Ruby’s Revenge” the highlight. It was great fun making that and he’s really good at acting mad, scary and angry… funny that!
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 9, 2017
I remember interviewing him the morning after Annie Power fell at the last in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham – if you’re a punter, I’m sure you remember it well! My first question was: “what the hell happened?” His calm and philosophical reaction to the whole thing was extraordinary and his clear ability to dust himself down, explain it and move on was fantastic.
It’s no surprise I’m sure, but whatever he’s involved with, he wants it to be right. He is an unbelievable pro to work with and always gives a bit extra. I don’t know what he’ll do next but I won’t be surprised to see him all over out TV screens, he’s pretty funny and has a great knack of simplifying seemingly complicated things by just being brutally honest.
But then again, he’s curious and loves learning. I think he’d have been a champion in whatever he decided to do, and I won’t be in the slightest bit surprised if he ends up a champion in his next gig too.
Mick Fitzgerald, former top jock, now top pundit
I think you only have to look at Ruby’s Cheltenham Festival record too see how good he was. To be so dominant in the greatest arena of them all. shows there was no one to match him.
When I coach young jockeys, I make them watch how Ruby Walsh rode around Cheltenham.
Time after time his unhurried style won races. His subtle way of getting a horse to jump and gallop was poetry in motion. To ride with that much confidence on the greatest stage of them all just proves how confident he was in his own ability.
It is one thing doing it Monday to Friday at the lesser tracks, but when you have the weight of expectation on your shoulders, race after race at the Festival it can wear on you. You would never have known that with Ruby.
He rode so many stars of the jumps game and will rightly be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. I have known him from the very early years and you could tell straight away he was different. He’s a genuinely nice guy and I feel privileged to call him a friend.
Matt Chapman, TV pundit and general sh*t stirrer
Ruby let the horse do the talking. He’d sit and you would hardly know a jockey was on the back of the animal underneath. He connected with horses in a way few of us mere mortals could understand.
Over the last few weeks, Walsh has smiled rather a lot. It hasn’t always been that way. Rumour had it that he was going to retire at Aintree if he won the Grand National. Certainly on ITV we were prepared. So it comes as no surprise he has hung up his boots now.
Kauto Star, Big Buck’s and Hurricane Fly were the three horses I will think of when it comes to Walsh, and I know the Hurricane was super special to him. It wasn’t always seen on the track, but away from the course Ruby had a dry, witty sense of humour that often came out at Cheltenham Preview nights.
He could cut someone like me down in an instant.
But he was like a sour sweet on those occasions – you still wanted more. Walsh is one of the best we have seen in our lifetime. For winning and losing – that Annie Power fall at Cheltenham is hard to forget – he has left an indelible mark on the sport.
Brendan Duke, former trader and wannabe Ernest Hemingway
Not since the doppelganger of Rudolf Hess turned out to be Rudolf Hess have conspiracy theorists suffered such a blow. Ruby Walsh, the bookies retained stuntman, announced his retirement yesterday. Last fence fallers will never hold the same fascination again. In spite of Ruby’s best efforts to floor him, Kemboy soared over the final fence, and ran out a gallant winner.
A fitting end to a champion’s career? Was he the best ever? Probably not for me to say. All I know about riding horses, is that it’s murder on the thighs. There are clues from the people who might know though. For quite a while, he was simultaneously first jockey to both Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls, champion trainers in their own domains.
One man had the two biggest jobs in an industry – at the same time! How’s that possible?
It’s like the CEO of McDonalds doing a nixer for Burger King.
The obvious conclusion, is that the respective trainers figured 50 per cent of Ruby has to be better than nothing.
He did hold fascination for us armchair jockeys though. From watching many races, we can usually tell when a jockey is going long or short. There are certain upper body movements they make. Ruby never seemed to move. He must have been been up to something with his legs. He was supreme at Cheltenham.
The fact he was in the plate for the most flawless rounds of hurdling, and fencing I saw there, probably isn’t coincidental. Master Minded in his first Champion Chase win, and Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle, are templates for perfect harmony between man and beast.
That Annie Power ride was his best in my opinion. Not that he’ll care what I think. Sure if he worried about what people thought, he’d have retired after jumping off her the previous year.
Jason Weaver, former Flat jockey, now top TV Pundit
I’m trying to find words that haven’t already been written about Ruby Walsh, which is very hard. He was at the top of National Hunt racing – an incredibly tough and unforgiving sport,
Where else does an ambulance follow you around as you go about your job? I had to Whatsapp AP McCoy for his mobile number to give him my best on what has been a remarkable career but couldn’t resist asking the former 20 times champion: was Ruby the greatest?
There was no messing around with the reply from McCoy, it simply said: “he was.” Praise doesn’t come much higher than that from a man who would walk over broken glass to get to ride a selling plater!!
I’m not going to go down the long list of great champions that he rode, but more a little study on what made him so special from a jockey‘s perspective.
To be able to sit still and motionless as he did going into those huge fences with complete timing and precision always had me looking on in awe. There was never any reason to panic and never any reason to force a stride from his horse when sitting still would do.
That’s not to suggest that in the heat of battle, this man with bundles of controlled aggression couldn’t let fire and fury unleash from the saddle and go long like nobody else.
Truly exceptional horsemanship is nearly impossible to find. It is the sort of understanding between man and horse that has all to do with feel and confidence and without question, he had it like nobody else in his field.
How do you keep all of the required mental and physical attributes in line when you suffered as many damaging and punishing injuries as he has had to overcome, The honest answer is: I don’t know!
And neither do you because we have been witness to one of the greatest sporting icons ever and I’m afraid we just don’t come up to scratch. Thanks Ruby.