I recently interviewed jockey Carrie Ford who rode Forest Gunner to 5th place in the 2005 Grand National and when I asked her about her thoughts on turning professional she quite openly stated that she would never have been able to make a living because the opportunities for female jockeys were simply not there at the time.
Fast forward just 8 short years and the racing scene has not only changed so that female jockeys can make a living but realistically one can actually win a Grand National. Ordinarily we would have seen two remarkable female jockeys take to the reins this weekend, but due to a whip ban Nina Carberry has been ruled out so it just leaves Ireland’s talented amateur jockey Katie Walsh to finally smash the glass ceiling, make history and finally put pay to the question “Can a woman win the Grand National?”
The task ahead is tough, make no mistake, but as daughter of trainer Ted Walsh and sister of two-time winner Ruby, Katie Walsh is in the best position to not just get around the course as she did last year but to actually win it outright.
On board Seabass for the second year in a row, Walsh is under no illusions as to the task ahead of her and despite the huge outpouring of public support for her endeavours she is more than realistic about how tough it is going to be.
Speaking 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.”
And while keeping it in the family, her brother Ruby is likely to be on board On His Own, the current race favourite. But with the money still rolling into the bookmakers, the Grand National Odds for Seabass keep shortening and On His Own has actually moved out, even if it is just marginally and Seabass is looking more likely to be the race favourite on the day.
If Seabass does go off as favourite, it will be the first time a favourite has raced with a female jockey on board (Forest Gunner was joint favourite) and though Katie has no doubt done her homework, it appears she hasn’t been thinking about the possibility that both her and Ruby could be neck and neck as they turn at the Canal for the run in.
“It could easily be him alongside if we’re jumping there at the last. But that’s one thing that I really haven’t thought about.”
Can Katie Walsh win the 2013 Grand National? Yes Seabass is a year older and yes he’s carrying more weight but this writer hopes that the fairytale has it’s dream ending for Katie and the Walsh family!