Katie Walsh – Grand National Jockey

Katie Walsh is the daughter of the well-known amateur jump jockey, trainer and television pundit, Ted Walsh, as well as being a sister to top class jump jockey, Ruby Walsh.

Hailing from a horse racing dynasty such as the Walsh’s being a jockey was always on the cards.

She began her riding career in 2003 and established herself as one of the best amateur jockeys in the country. Indeed, she showed that she can compete with the very best when completing a notable double at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010.

Having been attached to the Willie Mullins yard for a number of years, the emergence of Willie’s son Patrick in the 2007/8 season saw Katie’s opportunities for Mullins decrease significantly but she had gained an abundance of experience and was ready to make a wider impact.

In 2009/10 she had her best-ever season in terms of big-race winners, with the Willie Mullins-trained Thousand Stars getting the ball rolling by winning the Bar One Racing Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November.

But it was at Cheltenham that she really made her mark. Unsure that she would even get a single ride, she picked up the mount on the Ferdy Murphy-trained Poker De Sivola in the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup and took him to victory after battling it out with good friend Nina Carberry who was on board Becauseicouldntsee.

This remarkable success was followed up later in the week when riding Thousand Stars in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, she steered him to a cosy three lengths win, completing a remarkable double at the Mecca of National Hunt racing. Anybody watching this race would also have heard her father in the commentary box screaming for her all the way.

Katie Walsh made Grand National history in 2012 when, on board the extremely popular and very heavily backed Seabass, she finished in 3rd place, giving her the highest finish for a female competitor at the time.

Seabass Grand National 2013

In 2013 the Walsh family dominated the headlines as a triple threat in the Grand National.

With siblings Ruby and Katie riding the two race favourites – On His Own and Seabass and their father training two hopefuls – Seabass and Colbert Station there was a real possibility that the Walsh family could do a 1-2-3 in the places.

Walsh was aiming to be the first female jockey in history to win a Grand National and went off as race favourite, the first time a horse with a female jockey had done so.

Ruby Walsh, not to be outdone by his sister, was a close second favourite at 9/1. Ted Walsh was also in the picture with Colbert Station with AP McCoy for JP McManus.

The bookmakers even ran a host of Walsh centred betting options including “Katie & Ruby Walsh to finish 1,2 in any order – 25/1”.

It was a tough task and Walsh was under no illusions as to what was ahead of her. Despite the huge outpouring of public support for her endeavours she was more than realistic about how tough it is going to be.

Speaking at the time to The Observer she said “It would be fairytale stuff to win and I’d love to be part of it, but you can’t go into the race thinking about winning it.

“I might go down to the first and hit it and fall, and it’s all over.

“I don’t think I could have finished any closer last year and, being realistic, he’s a year older and he’s got eight or 10 more pounds on his back, so he has more weight to carry.”

Her father Ted was backing her all the way. When asked by The Telegraph if he would prefer another Grand National win or the elusive Cheltenham Gold Cup win, Walsh admitted “I think that if Katie were riding Seabass, I would rather it was another National”.

Unfortunately, Katie Walsh did not make history that day and could only manage to get Seabass home in 13th place.

Going Again In 2014

For the 2014 Grand National Walsh didn’t have a booked ride. Then Mikey Fogarty, who was on Vesper Bell for trainer Willie Mullins got injured and Mullins booked Katie Walsh to step in and replace the injured jockey.

Fogarty was due to ride out in his first Grand National but a fall in the Topham Chase, that day before, sidelined him.

Fogarty sustained terrible injuries, fracturing his spine in what would have been a dream festival for the young jockey who bagged his first Cheltenham Festival win a few weeks earlier.

Katie Walsh stepped up to take his place in a bid to go better than she did in the 2013 renewal.

Following the announcement, odds on Vesper Bell immediately shortened from 66/1 to 50/1 and then 40/1 with Paddy Power with may supporting the only female jockey running.

Like 2013, Walsh got her horse around the course and again finished in 13th place.

Irish Grand National Win

On 6 April 2015, Walsh became the third woman to win the Irish Grand National riding Thunder And Roses for trainer Sandra Hughes.

Three runners led the field turning into the home straight, with 20-1 shot Thunder And Roses alongside the Mouse Morris pair of Rule The World and Band Of Blood.

The trio jumped the final fence but Thunder And Roses galloped all the way to the line to secure a four-and-a-quarter-length victory.

The win was emotional for Hughes, who took over the training licence following the death of her father, Dessie Hughes, a few months earlier.

Following the victory Huges said: “Thunder And Roses stays all day. I was a little disappointed with him at Cheltenham but he came out of it fine so we took our chance.

“Someone above was helping us out. Dad always loved this race and to do it for him is wonderful.”

Katie Walsh was equally as thrilled saying “I’ve had some fantastic days, but this is an Irish National. It’s great for women in racing.”

Outside Of Racing

While a jockey’s life can be unrelenting when it comes to work and travel, it’s fantastic to see that Grand National jockey Katie Walsh took some time out in 2013 to get married.

On what was a beautiful sunny day, Walsh married Ross O’Sullivan in Kildare on July 20th. With both her brother Ruby and sister-in-law Nina Carberry in attendance it was as close to racing royalty as you can get.

One of the most anticipated weddings of the summer in Ireland, Katie and her long-term boyfriend Ross, was walked down the aisle of St Brigid’s Church in Kill, Co Kildare by her father, and trainer, Ted Walsh.

With her sister Jennifer as bridesmaid, Katie looked stunning and instead of the usual hotel reception, the family and guests headed back to the family home for the party.

With her new husband, the couple headed off to Barcelona for their honeymoon but were back in time for Katie to to take part in the Galway Races Summer Festival on July 29th.