Showing talent from an early age, Walsh won the Irish amateur title twice, in 1996/97 and 1997/98, before turning professional.
He won the English Grand National in 2000 at his first attempt, aged 20, on Papillon a horse trained by his father and owned by Mrs J Maxwell Moran.
Father and son then went on to win the Irish Grand National with Commanche Court the same year. In the 2004/05 season Walsh won three of the four Nationals: the Irish on the 2006 Grand National winner, Numbersixvalverde, the Welsh on subsequent 2007 Grand National Winner Silver Birch, and the English on Hedge hunter.
He rode Cornish Rebel in the Scottish, but was beaten a short head by Joe’s Edge. However, he had earlier success in that race on Take Control in 2002 and following the retirement in 2015 of Tony McCoy, became the only jockey currently riding to have won all four Nationals.
Walsh has one of the best Grand National records amongst current jockeys having won the race twice (2000, 2005), finished second once (2006), third once (2009) and fourth twice (2001, 2002).
To date Walsh has ridden over 2000 winners including 56 winners at the Cheltenham Festival since his first win in 1998 on Alexander Banquet.
These include the 2004 Queen Mother Champion Chase on Azertyuiop, the 2007 and 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup on the favourite, Kauto Star and two subsequent Queen Mother successes in 2008 and 2009 on the brilliant Master Minded.
He also won both the 2006 Tingle Creek Chase and the King George VI Chase on Kauto Star.
He repeated the King George feat, again on Kauto Star, in 2007 (just days after returning from injury), 2008 and 2009 when Kauto Star won impressively by 36 lengths. He reclaimed the King George VI Chase in 2011 on board Kauto Star after Long Run won the race in 2010.
He won the Hennessy Gold Cup twice, in 2003 on Strong Flow, and in more recent times, 2009 with Denman. He also won the Whitbread Gold Cup twice, in 2001 and 2003 (the latter when it was run as the Attheraces Gold Cup), both times on Ad Hoc. In 2007, Walsh won the inaugural British Horseracing Board Jockeys’ Order of Merit award.
To date Walsh has been Irish jump jockey champion twelve times – 1998/99, 2000/01, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17. Walsh’s recent dominance of the jockeys’ championship in Ireland is all the more remarkable given that for more than ten years he had a unique riding arrangement with two powerful stables, one on either side of the Irish Sea.
In January 2007, Walsh achieved the fastest ever century of winners in Irish jumps racing history aboard Bluestone Lad at Gowran Park. He ended the 2006/07 season with a combined total in Ireland and the UK of 198 winners, higher than any other jockey from either country that year.
This total was later increased to 200 on the disqualification of two horses for positive tests to banned substances. In both instances, Walsh had ridden the subsequently-promoted runners-up. He repeated this feat in 2007/08, riding his 200th winner on Andreas at Sandown on his penultimate ride of the season. He rode his 1,000th Irish winner, Rare Article, at Sligo in May 2008.
At the 2009 Cheltenham Festival Walsh rode a record-breaking seven winners over the four days. He equalled that record at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. On the second day of the 2010 festival he rode Sanctuaire to victory in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices Handicap Hurdle and therefore became the jockey with the most wins in the history of the Cheltenham festival.
In March 2011, Walsh rode Hurricane Fly to victory in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, finishing ahead of Peddlers Cross and Oscar Whisky. It was Walsh’s first victory in the feature race of the opening day at the Cheltenham Festival.
As of 2017, Walsh is the Festival’s most successful rider with 56 wins and has won the leading rider’s award eleven times within the last fourteen years.
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