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Katie Walsh Betway blog: Favourite Grand National memories

01 Apr | BY Katie Walsh | MIN READ TIME |
Katie Walsh Betway blog: Favourite Grand National memories

The Betway ambassador, whose family have enjoyed a special relationship with the race, ranks her all-time three favourite moments at Aintree.

3. Hedgehunter wins in 2005

I’ll start with No. 3, which was when Hedgehunter made it second time lucky for Willie Mullins in 2005.

I was just getting my career at Willie’s started at the time. It’s a huge boost for any yard to win a major race like the Grand National and it certainly spurred me on and gave me a greater desire to win.

Hedgehunter had run in the race the year before, when Amberleigh House won for Ginger McCain, but came down when bang there at the last.

He was campaigned over hurdles for the first part of the season in the year that he won it. I think everyone knew he was on a good enough mark and giving him runs over hurdles would certainly get him fitter.

He came back to form when winning the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on his last start before Aintree.

He went there fit, fresh and well and, with Ruby back in the saddle, it was brilliant to see him win. It was also great to see Willie train the winner of the Grand National for the owner, Trevor Hemmings, whose famous green, yellow and white silks have been synonymous with the race for many years.

As there often is after big-race successes, there was a huge party at the Lord Bagenal Inn in County Carlow on the evening of the victory. There were certainly a few sore heads the few morning after!

2. Coming third on Seabass in 2012

Second in my list would have to be when I was placed on Seabass in 2012.

I lead up a horse called Papillon in the National when I was 15 and, that day, I remember thinking that I’d have loved to have been riding in it – so to end up on the favourite in 2012 was the stuff of dreams, really.

He went there in great form after winning a good 2m race at Naas as his prep run so we were confident that he’d run a big race. I was delighted that Dad [Ted Walsh] and the owners had agreed to let me ride him.

It’s always tough and you always need plenty of luck, as you do in most races, but in the Grand National more so than ever.

As a rider, you just want to make sure you get over the first flight. After that, your confidence will grow with each flight you take – and ours did. We flew the first and popped the next few and I started to work out the plan in my head.

As the race unfolded towards the business end, I thought I had a shot, but never felt like I was really going to win.

We were beaten fair and square on the day but, look, I was just absolutely delighted to be placed in a Grand National.

1. Papillon wins for Dad and Ruby in 2000

My favourite Grand National memory is one that I can still remember every detail of, even though it was 20 years ago.

It was special day for the whole family, with Dad as the trainer, Ruby as the rider and a 15-year-old me leading him up and looking after him, it was a real Walsh family affair.

I went over on the boat with him and had lots of fun.

The excitement really started to build on the morning of the race. We never galloped him in the morning, I kept him to a gentle walk up the inside of the track, just to keep a lid on him as he was mad fresh.

He was a great horse, though, a real gent and a pleasure to be around.

The race just went to plan. Ruby, who had just come back from breaking his leg, had him in good position throughout and it never really looked in doubt.

The feeling of elation when they came back in was surreal – I can still remember it now.

The celebrations that took place after were immense. The family and the local community partied for days which is always what happens. The horse gets paraded locally and everyone is just in full party mode.

I went back on the boat with Papillon and, when I got home, Sky News were on the lawn and there were people crowded everywhere.

It’s one of my greatest memories and one I’ll never, ever, forget.

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Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh

Successful former jump jockey who, until 2021, boasted the best ever Grand National finishing position by a female jockey.

Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh

Successful former jump jockey who, until 2021, boasted the best ever Grand National finishing position by a female jockey.