GRAND National-winning jockey Ruby Walsh ended his “magic” 11-year partnership with leading trainer Paul Nicholls, after growing tired of commuting from his native Ireland to Britain.
The 34-year-old twice rode Kauto Star to Gold Cup victory – in 2007 and 2009 – under Nicholls’ stewardship and guided the same horse to a record five victories at the King George VI Chase.
However, Walsh met with the national hunt trainer on the weekend to explain his reasoning for wishing to terminate his time at Nicholls’ Ditcheat yard in Somerset.
“It was clear that the constant travelling to and from Ireland, with his wife Gillian and the girls at home, was becoming a bit of a grind for him,” said Nicholls.
“He was getting up before 5am and not getting home until after 8pm when riding over here and when you have a young family that must really take its toll.
“He came over to explain his decision on Saturday and we both agreed it was the best way forward in the circumstances.
“After he had left for the airport I texted him to say ‘thanks for the magic moments’.
“He texted back ‘magic they were and you made the success I have had, which made today [Saturday] the hardest call I have ever made’. That really meant a lot to me.”
Daryl Jacob, who won the Grand National on Neptune Collonges last year, will be promoted to Nicholls’ No1 jockey, while Walsh will team up with Irish-based champion trainer Willie Mullins.
“My future will be very different and probably a bit strange,” said Walsh. “But I think it is bright, as Willie Mullins’ yard is well stocked with talent and hopefully future stars.”