Which horse was Ruby Walsh’s first winner on British soil?
Rupert ‘Ruby’ Walsh announced his retirement, with immediate effect, after winning the Punchestown Gold Cup on Kemboy, trained by Willie Mullins, on May 1, 2019. He thus brought to an end a riding career that began at Leopardstown on May 17, 1995 – three days after his sixteenth birthday – and yielded 2,767 winners in Britain and Ireland combined. Walsh remains the third most successful National Hunt jockey in history, behind only Sir Anthony McCoy and Richard Johnson.
Born in Kill, Co. Kildare, Walsh was champion jump jockey in his native land on twelve occasions between 1998/99 and 2016/17 but, as far as a British audience is concerned, was best known for his exploits at the Cheltenham Festival. Thanks to fruitful associations with Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls – multiple champion trainers on their respective sides of the Irish Sea – Walsh rode a record 59 winners at the March showpiece and won the leading jockjey award eleven times between 2004 and 2017.
Walsh rode his first winner in Britain, Major Jamie, trained by Arthur Moore, in the William Hill Hurdle at Sandown Park on December 6, 1997, while still riding as ‘Mr. R. Walsh’. Indeed, he did not turn professional until the 1998/1999 season, by which time he had already ridden his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Alexander Banquet, trained by Mullins, in what is now the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, in March, 1998.