Sir Anthony McCoy likened the retiring Ruby Walsh to Lionel Messi as he paid tribute to his great friend.
The 20-times champion jockey was at Punchestown to witness Walsh win the Gold Cup on Kemboy before immediately bringing his illustrious career to a close.
“It’s a sad day for racing that he’s not going to be seen any longer on a horse,” McCoy told Racing TV.
“He was the best jockey I ever saw or ever rode against. He’s like Lionel Messi playing football – you can’t teach kids to be like that, he’s just different.
“He genuinely had no weakness, he had the style and the strength, the temperament, the judge of pace – he had everything you would want in a top-class sports person and that little bit extra, he was different.
“I don’t think people will ever get how mentally and physically strong he was to come back from the falls time and again, you have to be a seriously hard person to do what he did.
“He got to go out on his own terms and not everyone is lucky enough to do that.
“The tough thing is he was as good on Kemboy as he was on any horse in his life, so it’s a hard thing to walk away from.”
Walsh enjoyed a long association with trainer Willie Mullins and he provided the rider with his final victory aboard Kemboy.
Mullins said: “Ruby was fantastic there, I’m delighted for him.
“The R word is never discussed in our house for people or horses.
“Ruby just got off him and said ‘can you find someone for Livelovelaugh?’ and I was thinking is he lame, concussed or dehydrated, but he said ‘I’m out of here’ and the penny dropped.
“What more can you say? I just shook his hand. It was totally out of the blue for me as well, we’d never discussed it. I had no idea.
“It’s the end of an era, what a career he’s had with me and Paul Nicholls, what a career. It will be strange without him. He was just a natural, he rode them naturally, from the first time I put him up on a difficult filly in a 24-runner bumper.
“A lot of thought went into him changing from amateur to professional, thankfully he did. He’ll be hugely missed.
“We barely had a crossed word the whole time, a difference of opinion maybe, but never to a cross stage.
“I imagine Paul Townend will move up a step and it will move on seamlessly. He’ll leave a big hole, but hopefully I can utilise Ruby in the future.”
Walsh also spent a golden period as first jockey to Paul Nicholls, combining that role with his commitments to Mullins.
Nicholls told Press Association Sport: “The relationship with Kauto Star obviously particularly comes to mind. We had some amazing days with him, all the King Georges, the Gold Cups.
“We had some fantastic horses at that time – Denman, Neptune Collonges, Big Bucks, Master Minded – they were all just great days.
“I thought when I saw him ride that winner that I wouldn’t be surprised if he called it a day after that, and it’s just great to see him go out doing what he does best.
“He’s been a fantastic jockey, a fantastic ambassador for the sport and he’s just a great man. He’s one of the best jockeys ever to ride for us and will always be a friend.
“I just wish him all the best and I’m thrilled to see him go out like this, in one piece with no more injuries.”
Walsh’s father, Ted, said: “He was always well able to ride, but nobody could see the mind that he had – to deal with the adversity and to be able to handle the pressure of the big occasion.
“A bit like Tiger Woods at Augusta, he got to master Cheltenham very early on and from early on he was good on the big occasion.
“He was never cocky but always confident and he was also able to ride for two of the greatest trainers we’ve ever seen in Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls.”