David Walsh  Photo:

On this day - April 27

Tim Barton
27 April 2020

The Marlborough Cup rarely attracts international attention but that was not the case on this day six years ago.

For the 2014 Marlborough Cup was the race that enabled David Walsh to overtake Lance O’Sullivan as the most prolific winning rider in New Zealand thoroughbred history.

The achievement was acknowledged around the racing world after Willy Duggan gave Walsh win No. 2360 in New Zealand, almost 40 years after his first, on Three Sevens at Timaru in December 1974.

By the time he ended his NZ career on a winning note, at Ashburton in July 2016, Walsh had extended that tally to 2451. However, that figure is now under threat from Chris Johnson, who is 17 wins away from setting a new mark.

Walsh also won just under 100 races as a trainer.

His longevity as a rider – he was 56 when he rode his last winner – was obviously a feature of his career but there was plenty of quality to go with the quantity.

He won two New Zealand premierships and established a new record for a season when winning 138 races in the 1984-85 season.

He notched more than 100 Group wins, with a quarter of those at Group I level, including the Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup, giving him two of the four majors in Australian racing. The Melbourne Cup and Golden Slipper are regarded as the other majors.

Walsh was an almost peerless rider of front runners and his judgement of pace was showcased when Solvit ran second in the 1993 Cox Plate and won the race the following year. Walsh was also renowned for his ability to find the section of the track which provided the best footing.

He had a memorable year in 1986, when his victories across the Tasman included the Adelaide and Caulfield Cups on Lomondy, the Brisbane Cup on Marlon and the Group II Sires’ Produce Stakes in Brisbane on Shannon, to go with Group I placings on Abit Leica in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Tancred Stakes in Sydney. Walsh also won 10 group races at home that year.

Bart Cummings prepared Lomondy for his Adelaide Cup win but the horse was back with Noel Eales for the Caulfield Cup. Lomondy started a $6 favourite for the Melbourne Cup that year, with Walsh the rider, but finished eighth.

Walsh won the Group I Telegraph at Trentham in three successive years, once on Tanalyse and twice on Courier Bay and also recorded a hat-trick of Waikato Sprint wins, with the same pair.

He recorded his first Group I win on Orbit, in the 1979 One Thousand Guineas at Riccarton, a race he also won on Merry Maiden and Pace Invader, and he won the NZ Oaks on Miltak.

Walsh served his apprenticeship at Ashburton, with Jim Lalor, and was briefly based at Riccarton before heading to the central districts to ride for Garth Ivil.

He also had notable associations with Noel Eales, Don Grubb, Patrick Campbell, Michael Pitman, Murray Baker, Bruce Marsh, Kevin Myers and Peter McKenzie, and won numerous feature races for Dave and Paul O’Sullivan.

Walsh won 12 races apiece on Courier Bay and Fun On The Run and eight races on Solvit. He both trained and rode Aquidity to win 14 races in New Zealand and the combination also finished sixth in the Melbourne Cup and fourth in the Wellington and Brisbane Cups.

Other good horses ridden by Walsh included Commissionaire, Lord Tridan, Mun Lee, So Dandy, Pompeii Pearl, Sir Slick, Avedon, Straight Order, Nimue, Tit For Taat, Tall Poppy and Our Tristalight.

Walsh also rode in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Mauritius and won more than 2500 races in total. He was based in the North Island for the bulk of his career but returned south, to Christchurch, in 2009.

He now works for NZTR as a national riding mentor and is also involved in industry education and welfare

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