Ruby Walsh: The winning roar at Cheltenham made me feel like a football star

Ruby took a trip down memory lane in our special Racing Icons series

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Growing up watching the Cheltenham Festival on the television I always wanted to win a Gold Cup. I didn’t think winning the Grand National would be possible, but I always wanted a Gold Cup.

Fast-forward to 2007 and I was on Kauto Star. The year before he’d fallen in the Queen Mother Champion Chase but had since bounced back and was going for a perfect season at Cheltenham.

He’d won over three miles twice, at Haydock and Kempton, but the Gold Cup is a different ball game. Lots of horses had won the King George, like Kauto did, but couldn’t quite cope with the Gold Cup, where there is such a massive field.

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I remember getting up really early because I couldn’t sleep. I drove around in the car for about an hour at 5am and rode the race in mind every way I thought it could be run.

I remember getting back into bed with it sorted in my head. A total of 15 different ways the race could go… yet come the race I’d say the only way I hadn’t ridden it was the way it ended up going!

Kauto Star was the only horse in the race who could win a Tingle Creek. He had the speed to win a two-mile race. I was sure the others wouldn’t let me use speed, thinking they’d tactically grind it out.

But it never materialised. It really couldn’t have gone any better for me.

I don’t know what it is about horse racing, but it’s never like lifting the trophy in other sports. The cheer you got when you passed the winning post – that achievement and noise from winning far outweighed the official presentation.

Really that was just a formality, albeit at Cheltenham it’s different because there is such a big crowd. But it’s nothing like passing the line and standing to turn to the huge stands and the people congratulating you on the walk back down.

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At Cheltenham there’s always a crescendo. It doesn’t happen anywhere else, but when you turn at the top of the chute towards the crowd it’s what it must be like for footballers in a packed stadium. You feel like a popstar.

That’s an emotional feeling you will never replicate, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

Every so often you’ll hear a ‘Ruuuuuuuby’ chant from the rows and rows of punters. It’s just a wonderful place.

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