Walsh hangs up his sad­dle

Waikato Times - - SPORT - TIM RYAN

Record-set­ting jockey David Walsh, 57, has an­nounced his re­tire­ment from rid­ing af­ter 41 sea­sons in the sad­dle.

But if he had his way he would do it all over again.

‘‘If I had the chance I’d do it all over again. I guess you can’t pay a ca­reer a higher com­pli­ment than that,’’ said the man who has rid­den some of the greats of the New Zealand turf.

He rates Cox Plate win­ner Solvit the best of them all.

‘‘Solvit has to be the best, he won the best race against the best horses but I’ve been lucky to ride some great horses, oth­ers like Courier Bay and Lomondy.’’

Back in Septem­ber Walsh re­turned to Christchurch af­ter se­ri­ous ill­ness brought an end to a rid­ing con­tract in Mau­ri­tius and hasn’t race rid­den since.

Walsh, who es­tab­lished a new record with the 2,360th New Zealand win of his ca­reer at Blen­heim in April 2014, wasn’t sure of his plans at that stage as he bat­tled to re­cover.

He notched win No 2360 on Willy Dug­gan in the Marl­bor­ough Cup tak­ing the Christchurch-based rider past the pre­vi­ous record, set by Lance O’Sul­li­van who re­tired in 2003.

Only five jockeys have topped 2000 wins in New Zealand, the other greats be­ing the late Bill Skel­ton, along with David Peake and Noel Har­ris.

An in­testi­nal con­di­tion, di­ver­ti­c­uli­tis had trou­bled Walsh in the past and flared up in Mau­ri­tius, re­quir­ing an op­er­a­tion and a long re­cov­ery pe­riod.

Walsh was hos­pi­talised and dur­ing an op­er­a­tion it was dis­cov­ered he had ap­pen­dici­tis as well and his ap­pen­dix was re­moved.

He spent 10 days in hos­pi­tal and a sim­i­lar pe­riod of re­cov­ery be­fore be­ing cleared to travel, and he and his wife Julie re­turned home.

Ear­lier last year year with fewer rid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, Walsh ap­plied for a stew­ards’ po­si­tion with the Racing In­tegrity Unit but his ap­pli­ca­tion was un­suc­cess­ful as there were no avail­able po­si­tions in the South Is­land.

The leg­endary jockey, known for his hard work and com­mit­ment had an­other op­er­a­tion last month and is now back in good health and ‘‘al­most ready to get back on the golf course’’.

‘‘My health has im­proved out of sight,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m feel­ing bet­ter day by day. ‘‘I’ve had a fair go over a long pe­riod of time .

‘‘I’ve loved ev­ery minute of it even with all the ups and downs.

‘‘I just feel there’s a cer­tain point when you’ve got to call it quits.

‘‘I’m look­ing for­ward to mov­ing on to a new phase of my life, hope­fully con­tin­u­ing in racing.

‘‘Racing has been great to me and I’d like to think I can now give some­thing back.’’

Born in Ash­bur­ton in1959, aged 13 he seized the op­por­tu­nity to work at the sta­bles of Jim Lalor which he did both be­fore and af­ter school.

At aged 15 he be­came ap­pren­ticed to Lalor and on the third day of Cup Week at Ric­car­ton in 1974 had his first ride on a horse named Darn­ley Ex­press.

Be­fore the year was out Walsh rode his first win­ner, named Three Sev­ens, one of four suc­cesses he notched in that first sea­son.

The next sea­son he in­creased that to 18 win­ners.

In his third he bought home 44 win­ners and then in only his fourth sea­son of rid­ing 61 win­ners.

Walsh was so suc­cess­ful that he moved briefly to Ric­car­ton and then on to Palmer­ston North to be sta­ble rider for Garth Ivil.

It was in the Cen­tral Dis­tricts and later the Waikato amid nu­mer­ous so­journs to Aus­tralia that Walsh spent most of his rid­ing ca­reer. In 2009 he moved back to Ric­car­ton. Walsh ex­celled as a judge of pace and was a bril­liant front-run­ning jockey able to al­low horses to run freely in the lead which he did win­ning the Cox Plate on Solvit in 1994.

An ac­tion man, Walsh will miss go­ing to the track.

‘‘I’ve al­ways en­joyed go­ing to the track and rid­ing track work, keep­ing ac­tive and busy,’’ he said.

Walsh won two New Zealand jockeys’ pre­mier­ships dur­ing a won­der­ful ca­reer that saw him of­fered rides in Aus­tralia, Ja­pan, Sin­ga­pore, Malya­sia and Mau­ri­tius.

David Walsh

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