Robbie Walsh has ridden plenty of good horses. A native of Ireland who arrived in the U.S. in 2002, Walsh has sat on two Eclipse Award finalists and goes into the summer steeplechase season riding what he calls “the best horse he’s ever sat on.”
That one is of course Demonstrative, winner of this spring’s Iroquois Steeplechase and last year’s New York Turf Writers Cup and Colonial Cup.
He’s ridden plenty of other good ones and when asked to provide a list of ten that got him to this point, it’s easy to understand why a statement like that holds so much weight. Here they are, in Walsh’s words:
Lucifer’s Leap: I didn’t have any ponies growing up. My pony was a 16.2 point-to-point mare my dad trained. She was the first horse I schooled over fences at 14. The first time I schooled her I fell off and got right back up to do it again. That was the point my dad said ‘yea he’ll keep doing this.’
Crash William Girl: Another mare my dad trained. She gave me some of my first rides over hurdles. She was great because you just sat there and didn’t have to worry about anything but riding your race. She taught me a lot.
Java to Go: I came over to America and wasn’t planning on riding races here. I got a call from Joe Walsh asking if I wanted to ride out. He had just bought Java to Go and was going to make a timber horse out of him. Java became my resident timber horse and Joe became my best friend. They both got my name out there as a new rider in the states.
Azulyekit: I never rode him over jumps but I was there when he foaled and I broke him. Joe and I trained him together as a flat horse and he taught me about American racing.
Preemptive Strike: He was the first really good horse I got to ride. He was difficult and rank, but I learned about pace on him because he could be so difficult to hold. I won two Grade 2s and a couple Grade 3s. Riding good horses like him gave me an opportunity to get on some quality horses.
Northern Thinking: I won the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup on him. That was huge. He was a bit keen and awkward at times and I got on well with him. He made me a timber rider as well as a hurdler. It was important to me to be versatile.
Duke of Earl (Ire): I was coming back from getting hurt for the first time ever and Jack Fisher let me ride him. He won that day. He did everything on his own. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel coming back after breaking something and he gave me a bit of confidence. Now whenever I get hurt I have a gauge of how it’s going to be.
Four Schools (Ire): He could be difficult and quirky but I got along with him. We won a Grade 3 at Monmouth. He got me in the door with Richard Valentine to get on some nice horses.
Mabou: He was a longshot winner at Saratoga that David Jacobson had just claimed. To win a Grade 1 anywhere is big, to win at Saratoga is it. He gave me a taste of the top, where I want to stay.
Demonstrative: By far and away the best horse I’ve ever ridden. We have grown together as he’s matured I’ve learned how to ride good horses in good races. A horse like him gives you confidence. His versatility is the amazing part. I’m hoping he’s an influence for a long time to come.