HE’S the king of Cheltenham but top jockey Ruby Walsh makes a fairly good Prince as well.
The Irishman got a Festival makeover by bookies Paddy Power, dressing up as some of music’s biggest stars.
But while he had a laugh posing as Freddie Mercury, Sia, Liam Gallagher, Drake and the Purple One himself, when it comes to Cheltenham, Ruby is deadly serious.
“For me, it’s everything,” says Ruby, 39. “It’s probably the most important time of year.
“I need to do well at Cheltenham to feel like I’ve had a successful year.”
But despite being the Festival’s most successful rider with a record 58 wins, Ruby laughs when asked how much racegoers should wager on him.
He chuckles: “I can’t tell you to bet on me – that’s up to you. I try not to think about that. I only care about winning.”
Modest Ruby reckons his success is simply down to good horses, insisting: “The horses are what make you. I honestly don’t know any other secret to my success.”
Skills While he’s been training as hard for the meeting, it’s family time which Ruby says gives him most pleasure – especially when his injuries have stopped him racing.
He has been married to wife Gillian since 2006.
Their first child, Isabelle, was born in October 2009 and the couple have three more daughters, Elsa, Gemma and Erica.
He says: “Generally speaking I ride out every day at 7.30am until around lunchtime. Then in the afternoon I try and hit the gym twice a week.
“I have four daughters under the age of 10 who keep me on my toes. They all enjoy riding but I am not sure what they want to do yet. They all love being around horses though.
“I’m sure it’s usually worse for my wife when I’m injured. It can be a very frustrating time. She’s brilliant and has a great understanding of what life is like when things go right and things go wrong.
“I don’t know what skills you need to be a jockey’s wife but whatever you need, she has all of them. Sportspeople generally can live quite a selfish life. Your world comes first and often it seems like it all revolves around you. This life can be quite unsociable at times.
“You have to be committed to the sport but I try to balance it out.
“I like to make time to take the kids to school, to put them to bed and to get them up in the morning and make them breakfast like a normal dad would. We are still normal people after all!” While his busy racing and family lives mean Ruby doesn’t get much time to himself, he likes spending time outside – riding a lawnmower.
“I do like gardening,” he says. “I like to sit on my lawnmower and that’s when I am left alone to relax and get some peace.
“Having a young family always keeps you busy but being at home with them is how I wind down.
“Like most people I pretend to have hobbies but generally running around after four kids, taking them to football practice, school clubs and getting outside as much as possible is how I spend my time.
“I like to cook, I do cook for them on occasion and I’d say that if I had to cook we wouldn’t starve. But nothing I cook would ever be good enough to serve to guests!” As well as his wife and daughters, Ruby is surrounded by strong women. His sister Katie Walsh is a top female jockey and his brother Ted Walsh Jr is married to female rider Nina Carberry.
And he reckons when it comes to racing, there’s nothing he can do that a woman can’t. “Gender equality isn’t really something I think about, it’s always been there in racing,” he explains. “I’ve always competed against women all my life, so for me, it’s always been that way.
“My sister is a jockey, I have worked with female trainers. There’s nothing I can do that a woman can’t.”
Ruby enjoyed his rock-star makeover despite not knowing who they all were: “Sia, I’d never heard of her. Then they showed me the wig!
“I thought, what’s the harm, I can just deny it’s me wearing red lipstick if anyone asks.”
• Ruby Walsh was photographed for Paddy Power’s Cheltenham campaign. Read his tips and columns at news.paddypower.com all this week.