Stewart: I told Ruby he was doing the right thing

Leading owner Andy Stewart paid tribute to Ruby Walsh after the jockey announced he would no longer be formally attached to the Paul Nicholls stable.

Stewart: I told Ruby he was doing the right thing

Walsh broke the news in yesterday’s Irish Examiner and stated the travelling had begun to grind him down.

Walsh has worn Stewart’s red, white and black silks to win some of the biggest prizes in the game, most famously four Ladbrokes World Hurdles at Cheltenham on Big Buck’s.

His absence means Daryl Jacob will assume the number one position at Nicholls’ powerful Ditcheat yard.

However, Stewart totally agrees with Walsh’s decision that, with a young family, he needs to spend more time at home in Ireland.

“Ruby called me yesterday and told me of his decision and I fully understand it,” Stewart said, in Barbados.

“I told him he was doing the right thing. I was much too busy working when my kids were growing up and it is one thing I regret.

“He’s got a wife and two lovely kids that he never sees, he sees more of AP McCoy’s family than his own!

“It doesn’t mean he’ll never ride for me again, just not at the smaller tracks midweek.

“Of course, Daryl (Jacob) has just won a big race in France for me on Celestial Halo and will be going back out to France to try to win the French Champion Hurdle, where Ruby will be riding Thousand Stars I’d imagine.”

With Big Buck’s sidelined for the second half of last season and at least the first half of next, Stewart is in no rush to confirm who will ride the great staying hurdler.

“When it comes to Big Buck’s in March he needs to get there first,” said Stewart.

“He’ll either have one prep race or go straight there (to Cheltenham) and when it comes to it we’ll sit down with Paul and decide.

“I certainly won’t mind running two in the race but it’s unlikely Celestial Halo could trouble Big Buck’s, even at 90%.

“I wouldn’t go as far as to say Big Buck’s is definitely Daryl’s ride, we’ll do what is best for both horses, but it is not something you would decide in May.

“It’s been a real pleasure to have had Ruby riding my horses and 2008 was a magical year.

“Oslot won the Galway Plate after JP McManus told me English horses and especially five-year-olds couldn’t win it.

“Gwanako won the Topham, Nycteos won the Lanzarote Hurdle and then Big Buck’s won the Grade Two novice chase at Aintree. Of course the following year Ruby was injured, Sam Thomas was unseated from him in the Hennessy when he looked like winning and the rest is history.

“This is a great opportunity for Daryl. Ruby is one of the finest horsemen of all time but Daryl has proved himself as a very good jockey.

“Ruby has decided that family comes first and that is the correct decision and let’s not forget in Ireland Willie Mullins is a country mile ahead of the opposition.”

Nicholls told his Betfair column: “Daryl takes over as the number one, and I am as delighted for him as I am sad to see Ruby go – Daryl has earned his chance.

“It isn’t as if Ruby is severing all his ties here at Ditcheat, as he will continue to ride for us this season and in the future when he is needed and when he is available.”

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