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Hard decision for Walsh

Ruby Walsh admitted deciding to leave the position as number one jockey for Paul Nicholls was a difficult call to make.

Walsh said Nicholls has been "responsible for some of the most amazing days of my life" but the leading jockey has opted to focus on riding in Ireland, primarily for Willie Mullins.

He told the Irish Examiner: "I started as Paul's stable jockey in October 2002, but when I chose to live in Ireland, this was always going to be a job that involved a lot of travelling. Paul has never been anything but fair and honest since our association began and has been responsible for some of the most amazing days of my life. From King Georges and Tingle Creeks, to Champion Chases, World Hurdles and Gold Cups, he has been behind them all.

"With horses like Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded, Azertyuiop, Strong Flow and Twist Magic, to the current stars Big Buck's, Silviniaco Conti and Al Ferof, great horses were, and still, are a stable diet in Ditcheat.

"Being stable jockey there enabled me to ride in, and win, the biggest races in our sport, so walking away from my position as stable jockey was never going to be easy. However, I felt towards the end of last season that the travelling was starting to take its toll - my family and I were like passing ships in the night."

Walsh, whose last big-race triumph for Nicholls was aboard Zarkandar in the John Smith's Aintree Hurdle in April, said the decision to walk away required much thought.

He said: "In my eyes there was never going to be an easy or right time to make the decision to leave Paul's yard, and all it entails, behind me. Ditcheat is a much bigger place now than when I started there. While Kauto and Denman are gone, the rebuilding process is well advanced and Silviniaco Conti, Al Ferof, Big Buck's and Zarkandar are hard horses to give away the ride on. However, at 34 years of age, I no longer feel I can give 100% to two yards - and being a bit-part player will only hinder both."

Walsh said the decision to part company from Nicholls was also made in a bid to extend his career.

He added: "The future for me will be Naas instead of Newbury, and Navan instead of Haydock, but it will also be home for dinner with Gillian (Walsh's wife) and the girls rather than a quick coffee and breakfast.

"I also hope this decision will enable me to prolong the career I love for years to come. My future will be very different, and probably a bit strange, but I think it is still bright as Willie Mullins' yard is well stocked with talent and hopefully some future stars. What I have left behind is a powerful yard, headed up by a gentleman, and friendships made for life."

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