Katie Walsh announced her retirement from race riding following her victory on Antey (9/1) for Willie Mullins in the Salessense International Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Friday evening.
Ironically Walsh wasn’t originally booked for the ride; Antey should have been ridden by Noel Fehilly, and then Danny Mullins, before the former Grade 1 winning rider was confirmed as the jockey.
In a driving finish the Kildare woman got up on the line to edge out the Joseph O’Brien-trained Shady Operator (4/1) by a nose.
As her family gathered in the parade ring, public address announcer Brendan McArdle said that Katie was emotional, and then asked her to explain why:
“It’s very emotional and it means an enormous amount to finish off here because Punchestown is so important to me, I’ve been coming here for so long, ever since I was a kid. It’s also great to do it on a horse of Willie’s.”
The 34 year-old rider went on:
“I wanted to go out on a winner, wherever it would be, and there’s a next chapter in life. I’ve had a marvellous career with unbelievable memories. Having everyone here, (husband) Ross, and my family, it couldn’t be better. I couldn’t have done half of it without Willie, riding the likes of Thousand Stars, and it’s been a remarkable career. The only thing I’d have loved to have done would have been to win an English National.”
The winning rider was greeted by a guard of honour from fellow jockeys and was welcomed in by her family. Her father Ted, of RTÉ Sport’s racing coverage, said:
“Katie had planned it and had said that if she rode a winner she’ll call it a day this week. It’s a lovely way for her to finish. It’s sad for Helen and I because we have had such great enjoyment out of watching her. She’s done more than we’d ever have thought she’d have achieved, winning the Irish National and riding winners at Cheltenham, France and Australia. Also to get round so many times at Aintree, including getting such a great spin on Seabass.”
During a hugely successful career Walsh won two races at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival (Poker De Sivola and Thousand Stars), as well as another this year when Relegate took the Champion Bumper. In 2016 she won her first Grade 1 race when Blow By Blow was victorious in the Champion INH Bumper at Punchestown.
Katie Walsh holds the distinction of being only the third female jockey to win the BoyleSports Irish Grand National when successful with Thunder And Roses in 2015. Her third place with Seabass in the 2012 Aintree Grand National remains the highest finish by a female rider in the race’s history.