Katie Walsh is one of the UK’s leading female jockeys, attaining a very successful career in horse-racing. Winning the Irish Grand National last year with Thunder and Roses, Katie became the third ever female jockey to win the fixture, following her brother, Ruby Walsh’s award-winning footsteps.
Back in 2012, she snatched third place with Seabass, one of her father’s, trainer Ted Walsh, horses at the Crabbie’s Grand National. For the second year running, she is a Crabbie’s Grand National ambassador and will co-host the Grand Women’s Summit on Ladies Day, showing the impact that women have within the sport. As ambassador she will show a team of delegates around the course and fences on 8th April.
Katie revealed that the Grand Women’s Summit proves undeniable commitment in the game to be able to work with women in racing, providing the sports network so desperately needed.
The Grand National has had 126 entries so far, it’s largest yet with Katie’s father entering 7-time winner Seabass and five-time champion Foxrock, hoping to be chosen for the hottest event in racing.
With a possible ride in this year’s National, Katie remains hopeful at the end of the phone just like any other jockey waiting to hear of their fate.
Signatures Liverpool caught up with Katie Walsh before the racing season to find out more about the great sportswoman.
What’s it like being in a male dominated sport?
I don’t feel any different to be honest, I don’t look at it that way. When I finished third in the national I didn’t think how finishing third would affect girls, yes it is a male dominated sport I just thought it was fantastic to be third regardless if I was male or female.
It was such a fantastic occasion and I was delighted to be a part of it, not just because I was female you know, it was just an amazing thing to be part of.”
Are you looking forward to the Grand National?
Yeah! Obviously at this stage I don’t know whether I’ll have a ride in it yet, that’s the way racing is; you wouldn’t really get much notice and, at the minute, I have nothing set in stone and if I do get called it’ll be a bonus.
I’m excited to be an ambassador again this year and would love another opportunity to ride in it, but that is more a wish for myself more than anything else.
How do you cope with the travelling side of horse racing?
It’s just the way it is, you’re on the road for 365 days a year, there’s nothing really glamorous about it, it’s the life you sign up for.
I love it. I wouldn’t swap it for anything. It doesn’t feel like work to me; I think that’s a really good way of life, you know it’s always easier doing it for a job you love, it’s easier getting out of bed. I count myself extremely lucky.
Do you own any horses yourself and would you ever go into this in the future?
I don’t own any race horses really, I buy and sell a couple of young ones but no I don’t have any race horses myself.
I like to buy, sell and trade young horses, I’d like to maybe run a business that way but it’s not cheap. If I had a lot of money I would absolutely love to have that. I’d buy a load of horses I could ride and own myself, not have to answer to anyone else but myself but that’s in an ideal world.
How does it feel to win a race?
Obviously it’s ecstatic, you’re absolutely over the moon. When I won the (Irish) National I couldn’t quite believe it, it was the race I thought I’d never win. I was lucky enough to ride, and for it to happen was unbelievable, a dream come true.
It really is right place, right time and that happens a lot during horse racing. It’s different than any other sport, like the Olympics and World Championships – they know exactly what to do and what date, what they need to qualify and what they need to do to get through the rounds and win that gold medal. Whereas with horse-racing, I know when all these big races will be on but I don’t know if I’ll ever be riding in them. It really can be down to last minute.
I rode in a National in 2014 and I didn’t know until the day before because someone got hurt. I got a phone-call saying ‘Here, hey listen, such and such is hurt, will you ride?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, of course I’d love to’.
I’m on the end of the phone like any other jockey, waiting for the phone call, I’m in a very good position.
If you want to read more about the Grand National, take a look at our interview with Sam Twiston-Davies.