News has broken over the last couple of days that Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls have ended one of the most successful racing partnerships in recent memory. Walsh has informed the Ditcheat trainer that he will be concentrating on his riding career in Ireland from next season, ending an 11 year association with Nicholls in Britain. The Irish jockey has cited travel reasons for his decision to stay at home, although he could still ride for Nicholls every now and then if the situation dictates.
The Walsh and Nicholls team have been among the most famous in the sport for years now and it will be interesting to see how both continue their careers. Walsh will now concentrate on his riding duties for Willie Mullins, while Paul Nicholls has confirmed that Daryl Jacob will now take on the role of stable jock at Ditcheat. Jacob has proven himself to be a more than able deputy for Walsh in recent times and he can now look forward to a big season in the hot seat.
Walsh was aid to have grown weary of the long travelling demands on him during the week with a young family at home and it is easy to understand that point of view. Nicholls has finally been un-seated as the Champion trainer and with the likes of Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded all retired it is difficult to se him regaining that title. Those missing superstars will surely have made the Ruby Walsh decision easier and there is no doubt that his absence is a big blow for British racing.
The last decade has been unbelievably successful for Walsh and Nicholls with the pair teaming up on a number of famous wins. Walsh was on board Kauto star for both of his Gold cup wins and all five of his King George successes. Another memorable day came at Cheltenham in 2008 when Walsh steered Master Minded to a stunning Champion Chase success, a trick which they would repeat the following year in fine style. Big Buck's is another legend of the Cheltenham Festival having won the World Hurdle four times, with Ruby Walsh on board for each of those wins.
It is certainly a new era for Paul Nicholls in Somerset with the majority of his star horses now retired,his championship taken from him and his stable jockey now departed. It will be fascinating to follow Ditcheat in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival next season with the likes of Zarkandar, Silviniaco Conti and Al Ferof likely to be the leading players for the yard. It would certainly be foolish to right him off given the talent at the yard, but it is hard to see him reclaiming his crown from a resurgenent Nicky Henderson anytime soon.