Katie Walsh endured a frustrating day at Ballarat, Australia, on Sunday, the home team’s jumps riders easily beat their Irish rivals in a three-race jumps competition.
Walsh’s appearance at the Grand National Steeplechase meeting had been heavily hyped for weeks and leading into yesterday’s meeting she had never missed a top-three finish in the eight Australian races she had ridden in.
The Kildare-rider was last to cross the line aboard Black Tie in the 3,400m hurdle while her second mount, Nordic Duke, failed to finish in the 3,200m hurdle. She was unseated from the Darren Weir-trained favourite, Fledged, before halfway in the 3,200m steeplechase.
That misfortune helped the Australian riders claim a 32-12 victory over their Irish counterparts, with Brad McLean on Kemtain and Steven Pateman riding Mannertone collecting maximum points for winning their respective races.
The Irish team captain’s fourth and final ride for the meeting was aboard the Patrick Ryan-trained equal-second favourite I’ll’ava’alf in the $350,000 QLS Grand National Steeplechase (4,500m) – a race her brother, Ruby, won last year.
Walsh’s mount raced keenly through the early stages of the race, but was a beaten horse on the home turn, left to contend for minor money. I’ll’ava’alf and Walsh were denied that opportunity, however, when Slowpoke Rodriguez intervened, falling at the final fence 300 metres from the finish line, and bringing down I’ll’ava’alf, with Walsh sent tumbling again on the heavy track.
Katie Walsh has the opportunity for redemption before she returns home to Ireland, as South Australia hosts its own Australia V Ireland three-race jumps rider series, starting at Murray Bridge on Wednesday with a highweight race, and culminating with two jumps races at Morphettville on Saturday.