Ruby Walsh has won two Aintree Grand Nationals and two Cheltenham Gold Cups.
But Walsh is the first to admit that he has a soft spot for a race closer to home.
The Kildare jockey has triumphed in the Down Royal Festival’s JNwine.com Champion Chase for three of the last four years, two of those victories coming on the great Kauto Star.
Walsh would have had every chance of making it four wins in five years on board The Nightingale on Saturday — but for a controversial whip ban picked up last week at Aintree, which the jockey is currently appealing.
“I’m lucky enough to have a great record in the race,” said Walsh.
“I won it a couple of times on Kauto Star for Paul Nicholls and he has The Nightingale this year.
“It’s a great race. The timing of it is everything. This race comes at a great time of the year for the good horses. It’s a great starting point.
“Down Royal is a fine track, almost two miles round. The fences are quite big, but they’re fair.
“It’s a really good prize, a really good race and it deserves to be supported.”
The crowds flocked to last year’s Down Royal Festival to salute Kauto Star, and Walsh duly guided the double Cheltenham Gold Cup winner to victory.
But about an hour later Walsh was in agony as a result of a broken leg sustained in a fall in a subsequent race.
“That’s racing, the ups and the downs,” said a philosophical Walsh.
“In a sense, if it was going to happen anywhere, I was lucky that it happened here. I was so well looked after in the Royal Victoria Hospital. The treatment I received was second to none.”
And riding Kauto Star is one of the highlights in Walsh’s glittering career.
“Kauto Star will forever be the horse that defines my career — two Gold Cups and countless Grade Ones,” he recalled.
“It was a privilege to ride Kauto Star and a privilege to be associated with him.
“It was a massive thrill to get to ride a horse as good as Kauto Star.”
Walsh is in the fortunate position of getting to ride the best horses in Britain and Ireland courtesy of his association with champion trainers Nicholls and Willie Mullins.
“Paul and Willie both have good teams of horses and they are great fellas to ride for,” said Walsh.
“It’s a great position to be in and I love what I do.”
At 32, Walsh intends to keep on riding for a few years yet — though he is quick to point out that his great friend and rival, Ulsterman Tony McCoy (37), should perhaps think about calling it a day.
“McCoy is getting old — he probably should think about packing it in!” laughed Walsh.
“He’s had long enough at it and should really give up.
“McCoy will go on forever — he’s an enigma.
“Sometimes I think I will train horses when I retire, other times I don’t really fancy that. But I see myself riding for a while yet.”
Walsh was in action at Exeter yesterday, riding Jump City to victory for Nicholls in the Nationwide Novices Hurdle.
He then finished fourth on Ghizao in the feature race — the Haldon Gold Cup won by Medermit — before taking a tumble from Sam Winner in the Betfred Novices Chase.