Racing: Record-breaking rider calls time

Overseas victories included Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup.
David Walsh on his way to another hard-fought victory.
David Walsh on his way to another hard-fought victory.

The jockey who has ridden more New Zealand winners than any other has confirmed his retirement from the saddle. David Walsh, who has been off the scene through ill health this season, made his decision public yesterday.

"Retiring has been on my mind for a while, but I didn't want to make the call until I felt better and now the time is right," he said. "I haven't got anything lined up at the moment, but I'm hoping to stay in the game whether it be in a steward's role or working with apprentices. It would be nice to think there might be something."

Walsh rode more than 2500 winners and it was the 2360th victory of his career in April, 2014, aboard Willy Duggan in the Marlborough Cup at Blenheim that surpassed the previous record set by Lance O'Sullivan, who retired in 2003.

Walsh went to work for Ashburton trainer Jim Lalor as a 13-year-old and signed on as an apprentice two years later. He rode his first winner on Three Sevens at Timaru in 1974.

He later moved to Riccarton before subsequent successful spells in the central districts and the Waikato. He returned to Christchurch in 2009.

Walsh won the jockeys' premiership in 1983-84 with 113 winners and he defended his title the following season with 138, then a record.

Walsh's overseas group one wins included the Cox Plate on Solvit, the Caulfield and Adelaide Cups aboard Lomondy and a Brisbane Cup with Marlon, while he also won a Singapore Gold Cup on Starman. "You can't top a Cox Plate," he said. "That would be the absolute highlight - you dream of winning a race like that."

One of his favourite horses was the Taranaki galloper Courier Bay, on whom he won more than a dozen races, including four group ones - two editions of the Telegraph and two Waikato Sprints. "The single best performance of any horse I rode was Tanalyse when he won the 1986 Telegraph," Walsh said. "It was staggering - he was giving the leaders at least 12 if not 15 lengths at the end of the junction."

"I rode Show Gate and Grey Way in track work and I also rode Bonecrusher as a two-year-old in Sydney one day - no-one realised what a great horse he was going to be."

As a trainer, Walsh won the 2003 group one NZ Bloodstock Breeders' Stakes with Zirna while he also prepared both Aquidity and The Varmint for multiple black type wins.

"Racing has been great to me and I've loved every minute of it," he said.

- NZ Racing Desk

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