Rupert “Ruby” Walsh, the eldest son of Kildare trainer Ted Walsh, is recognised as one of the finest National Hunt jockeys of his generation. He has ridden over 2,500 winners and is one of a few jockeys who’ve won the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
In addition, despite the injuries that are an occupational hazard of working with horses in any discipline, never mind jumping fences on a half-ton racehorse travelling at 40 miles an hour, Walsh Jnr. has an enviable record in the Grand National. In 13 attempts, so far, he has failed to complete the National Course just three times and, apart from Leighton Aspell, is the only current jockey to have won the National twice.
In fact, he won the National on his first attempt, as a 20-year-old, aboard Papillon, trained by his father, Ted, in 2000. The following year, the same horse refused at the nineteenth fence after being hampered by a loose horse but, in the days before remounting was banned, Walsh climbed back aboard and hacked home to finish a distant fourth. In 2002, he completed the course again, when a not-quite-so-distant fourth on Kingsmark, trained by Martin Todhunter. He didn’t have to wait long for his second National winner, though, because his was back in the winners’ enclosure again in 2005, having ridden Hedgehunter, trained by Willie Mullins, to a 14-length win over Royal Auclair.
Walsh has yet to win the National again, but finished second on Hedgehunter in 2006 and third on My Will, trained by Paul Nicholls, in 2009. His most recent ride in the great race, Pleasant Company, in 2017, could only stay on at one pace from the second last to finish ninth, beaten 28¾ lengths, behind the winner, One For Arthur. However, in 2018, with Walsh sidelined with a broken leg, suffered on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, the same horse finished second, beaten just a head, for jockey David Mullins and trainer Willie Mullins.