When Robbie Walsh came to the U.S. from Ireland in 2001, he never meant to stay. And he certainly had no intention of becoming one of the top steeplechase jockeys in the business. But that’s exactly how things played out.
“I came for a year’s work and holiday, basically,” he said. “Myself and Carmel (his wife) came over. I didn’t care where I went in America. I said I’d go anywhere. Ted Walsh had said he could get me job wherever we wanted, and I said ‘Well you pick.’ So he got us a job with Mike Moran in Pennsylvania. We could have been in California, New York – just to get away from Ireland for a bit. Racing had slowed up, there was a lot of chasing around the country for very little.”
Success on this side of the pond wasn’t instantaneous, but it did come. He rode his first winner over jumps in 2002, but his big break came the following year when trainer Paul Rowland tapped him to ride Preemptive Strike.
“He’s the one who got me going. I won the Carolina Cup on him and a couple of Grade 2s.”
Robbie’s Big Horse, however, was unquestionably 2014 Eclipse Champion Demonstrative. The pair won the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes-G1, the Lonesome Glory Handicap-G1, and Saratoga’s New York Turf Writer’s Cup Steeplechase Handicap-G1 in 2012 and 2014.
“Demonstrative is the best jumper I’ve ever ridden,” he said.
Plagued by multiple career-stalling injuries over the years, Robbie retired from race riding at the end of 2015 after re-breaking his hip at Far Hills. He now rides out full-time for us at Herringswell. And during his four years here, he’s been on a few decent flat horses as well. The list is a virtual Who’s Who: Animal Kingdom, Toby’s Corner, Aruna, Shared Account, Smart Bid, Ring Weekend, dual-Eclipse Champion Main Sequence, and current stable star Miss Temple City.
Fifteen years after their year-long working vacation, Robbie and Carmel are settled and thriving with son Kevin and daughter Laura in Lincoln University, Pa.
“We’re happy, we have our own place, the kids are doing well in school. It’s cool – we like it here.”