Superstar Irish jockey Ruby Walsh retires from horse racing

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PUNCHESTOWN, Ireland — Irish jockey Ruby Walsh has retired from horse racing, ending a career in which he had more than 2,500 winners and earned more successes at the Cheltenham Festival than any other rider.

The 39-year-old Walsh made his decision after riding Kemboy to a two-length victory at the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.

“I think I knew going out that if he won, I wouldn’t be riding again,” Walsh said. “Nothing goes on forever and it has always been about big races – it doesn’t get any bigger here than that.”

Walsh really burst on to the racing scene when winning the Grand National steeplechase in 2000 on Papillon, trained by his father, Ted. He also won the famous race on Hedgehunter in 2005.

But Walsh will perhaps be best remembered for riding two-time Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly and double Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Kauto Star. Walsh was aboard Kauto Star for each of his five King George VI Chase wins.

Walsh rode 59 winners at Cheltenham.

Willie Mullins, the Irish trainer for whom Walsh enjoyed so much success, said Walsh’s retirement came “totally out of the blue.”

“The R-word is never discussed in our house for people or horses,” Mullins said. “Ruby just got off him (Kemboy) 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 … It’s the end of an era.”