Sir Anthony McCoy and Ruby Walsh at Punchestown
Sir Anthony McCoy and Ruby Walsh at Punchestown

Ruby Walsh retires: Sir Anthony McCoy likens his great friend to Lionel Messi

Sir Anthony McCoy likened the retiring Ruby Walsh to Lionel Messi as he paid tribute to his great friend.

The 20-times champion jockey was at Punchestown to witness Walsh win the Gold Cup on Kemboy before immediately bringing his illustrious career to a close.

"It's a sad day for racing that he's not going to be seen any longer on a horse," McCoy told Racing TV.

"He was the best jockey I ever saw or ever rode against. He's like Lionel Messi playing football - you can't teach kids to be like that, he's just different.

"He genuinely had no weakness, he had the style and the strength, the temperament, the judge of pace - he had everything you would want in a top-class sports person and that little bit extra, he was different.

"I don't think people will ever get how mentally and physically strong he was to come back from the falls time and again, you have to be a seriously hard person to do what he did.

"He got to go out on his own terms and not everyone is lucky enough to do that.

"The tough thing is he was as good on Kemboy as he was on any horse in his life, so it's a hard thing to walk away from."

Walsh enjoyed a long association with trainer Willie Mullins and he provided the rider with his final victory aboard Kemboy.

Mullins said: "Ruby was fantastic there, I'm delighted for him. The R word is never discussed in our house for people or horses.

"Ruby just got off him and said 'can you find someone for Livelovelaugh?' and I was thinking is he lame, concussed or dehydrated, but he said 'I'm out of here' and the penny dropped.

"What more can you say? I just shook his hand. It was totally out of the blue for me as well, we'd never discussed it. I had no idea.

"It's the end of an era, what a career he's had with me and Paul Nicholls, what a career. It will be strange without him. He was just a natural, he rode them naturally, from the first time I put him up on a difficult filly in a 24-runner bumper.

"A lot of thought went into him changing from amateur to professional, thankfully he did. He'll be hugely missed.

"We barely had a crossed word the whole time, a difference of opinion maybe, but never to a cross stage.

"I imagine Paul Townend will move up a step and it will move on seamlessly. He'll leave a big hole, but hopefully I can utilise Ruby in the future."

Walsh also spent a golden period as first jockey to Paul Nicholls, combining that role with his commitments to Mullins.

Nicholls told Press Association Sport: "The relationship with Kauto Star obviously particularly comes to mind. We had some amazing days with him, all the King Georges, the Gold Cups.

"We had some fantastic horses at that time - Denman, Neptune Collonges, Big Bucks, Master Minded - they were all just great days.

"I thought when I saw him ride that winner that I wouldn't be surprised if he called it a day after that, and it's just great to see him go out doing what he does best.

"He's been a fantastic jockey, a fantastic ambassador for the sport and he's just a great man. He's one of the best jockeys ever to ride for us and will always be a friend.

"I just wish him all the best and I'm thrilled to see him go out like this, in one piece with no more injuries."

Walsh's father, Ted, said: "He was always well able to ride, but nobody could see the mind that he had - to deal with the adversity and to be able to handle the pressure of the big occasion.

"A bit like Tiger Woods at Augusta, he got to master Cheltenham very early on and from early on he was good on the big occasion.

"He was never cocky but always confident and he was also able to ride for two of the greatest trainers we've ever seen in Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls."

12 special Ruby Walsh moments

Papillon - Grand National (2000)

In 1999, Tommy and Paul Carberry teamed up to win the Aintree spectacular for Ireland - and 12 months later it was the turn of Ted Walsh and his 20-year-old son, Ruby, who was having his first ride in the race. The horse was the subject of a huge public gamble, and in beating Mely Moss by a length and a quarter he set his rider on the road to superstardom.

Hedgehunter - Grand National (2005)

Hedgehunter had really taken to the big fences the year before, but ran too free for David Casey and was ultimately a tired faller at the last. Twelve months on he was sent off the 7-1 favourite in the hands of Walsh, who was able to avoid significant trouble at Becher's on the second circuit that saw Clan Royal carried out. Left in front from there, it was only at the elbow that a hitherto motionless Walsh asked his partner a question, with the response everything his backers could have hoped for.

Master Minded - Queen Mother Champion Chase (2008)

Walsh enjoyed an armchair ride on Master Minded as Paul Nicholls' brilliant two-miler produced one of the best performances ever seen at Cheltenham in destroying the previous year's winner Voy Por Ustedes by 19 lengths. The result was never in doubt as he pulled clear from halfway. It was a similar story 12 months later.

Kauto Star - Gold Cup (2009)

Walsh and Kauto Star shared so many big days, but their performance to regain the Gold Cup was extraordinary. After winning in 2007, Kauto Star had been beaten by Denman 12 months later. However, he turned the tables on his stablemate in some style as Walsh rode him with supreme confidence to come home 13 lengths clear for a Nicholls-trained one-two.

Denman - Hennessy Gold Cup (2009)

Walsh described Denman's 2009 Hennessy success as the "best weight-carrying performance" of a horse he had ever been involved with. It is hard to disagree, with 'The Tank' dishing out a three-and-a-half-length beating to stablemate and subsequent dual Grade One winner What A Friend - to whom he was conceding 22lb.

Big Buck's - World Hurdle (2011)

The third of four wins for Big Buck's in the stayers' championship was not straightforward, because Walsh dropped his whip as they took the lead before the final flight. The horse then hung left to add to his rider's troubles, but it did not stop the pair going on to gamely defeat young pretender Grands Crus.

Kauto Star - King George VI Chase (2011)

Kauto Star sent Kempton racegoers into a state of mass hysteria and consolidated his position as the most acclaimed National Hunt horse since Arkle with an unprecedented fifth victory in the King George. Seemingly on a downward spiral when trounced by Long Run the year before, and at his nadir when pulled up at Punchestown in May, Kauto Star exacted a revenge as stylish as it was popular - jumping perhaps as well as he ever did.

Hurricane Fly - Champion Hurdle (2013)

One of the most memorable of Hurricane Fly's 22 Grade One wins was when he became the first horse for 38 years to regain the Champion Hurdle. Walsh knew the horse inside out and nursed him home from Rock On Ruby as Willie Mullins' star overcame the quick ground and a track that never really suited him.

Quevega - Mares' Hurdle (2013)

Winning the same race at the Festival six years in a row is a remarkable feat -and while all were memorable, the fifth of Quevega's successes is the one that stands out - because she had a lot to do after being hampered at the top of the hill. It looked like the golden run might come to an end - but Walsh knew what he had under him, and Quevega surged into top gear to turn defeat into another victory.

Faugheen - Champion Hurdle (2015)

Faugheen was the star of the show on a day that featured an amazing Mullins four-timer. It was always going to take something special for Walsh to give up the ride on Hurricane Fly - but after leading from pillar to post in the championship event, it was clear just why he did.

Annie Power - Champion Hurdle (2016)

A costly faller in the Mares' Hurdle in 2015 when looking certain to win, Annie Power deserved her day in the sun after owner Rich Ricci stumped up ยฃ20,000 to supplement her. Walsh was determined to make it a strong test - and after The New One led to the first hurdle, where he jumped right, Annie Power took over and was never headed. Her victory saw her become just the fourth mare to win the two-mile championship, emulating Dawn Run in 1984.

Douvan - Ryanair Novice Chase (2016)

A clash with Sprinter Sacre or a path that would lead to the Gold Cup featured on the fascinating list of options for Douvan after he rounded off a spectacular season with another faultless display, this time at Punchestown after victories at Cheltenham and Aintree. More on his toes before the off than in the past, perhaps feeling the effects of a long campaign, it was business as usual once the tapes went up for Douvan - and he was arguably never better as he trounced The Game Changer by 11 lengths.

Related horse racing links

Like what you've read?

Next Off

Sporting Life
My Stable
Follow and track your favourite Horses, Jockeys and Trainers. Never miss a race with automated alerts.
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Click HERE for more information

Most Followed


We are committed to Safer Gambling and have a number of self-help tools to help you manage your gambling. We also work with a number of independent charitable organisations who can offer help and answers any questions you may have.
Gamble Aware LogoGamble Helpline LogoGamstop LogoGordon Moody LogoSafer Gambling Standard LogoGamban Logo18+ LogoTake Time To Think Logo