Walsh looks to become 1st female to win National

Updated: April 5, 2013, 4:30 PM ET
Associated Press

AINTREE, England -- Katie Walsh will attempt to become the first female jockey to win the Grand National when she rides Seabass on Saturday.

Walsh's father Ted (trainer) and brother Ruby (jockey) won the National, and she'll aim to complete the family set aboard Seabass, who finished third last year.

"There's a lot of fences to be jumped," Walsh said. "You need a lot of luck. But I'm looking forward to it again, and it's good to have last year's experience under my belt."

Since the Grand National stopped being a male-only event for jockeys in 1977, 15 women have entered the world's most famous jumping race.

Like last year, Walsh will be going head-to-head with brother Ruby in the Aintree Festival showpiece, with the siblings riding the two favorites. The older, more experienced Walsh mounts On His Own, the current 15-2 favorite.

"It could easily be him alongside if we're jumping there at the last," Katie said of her brother. "But that's one thing that I really haven't thought about."

Ruby Walsh's first of two National victories came in 2000 on Papillon, whose stable girl was a 16-year-old Katie. Her day job is still as a worker at the Irish stables owned by her father. But she has become a jockey in her own right -- one of Ireland's best -- while continuing to ride as an amateur.

With two fences to jump last year in her first National, Walsh was contesting the lead on Seabass but ran out of gas in the closing stages. Seabass finished five lengths behind winner Neptune Collonges.

"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," she said.

Ted Walsh, Seabass' trainer, acknowledges the same point.

"It is hard to see how we can improve from last year," he said. "Hopefully, training him specifically for the race will make the difference. Last year, we had him peaking at Christmas and again in February. This year, we've only had this race in mind."

Seabass is the second favorite with most bookmakers at 8-1.

Walsh experienced a blow on Thursday, when she pulled up Battlefront midway through the Fox Hunters' Steeplechase. The 11-year-old horse collapsed and died shortly afterward from a suspected heart attack.

Another horse, Little Josh, was destroyed after breaking a shoulder following a fall in the Topham Steeplechase on Friday.

Of the 20 horses ridden by females since Charlotte Brew climbed aboard Barony Fort 36 years ago, only seven have finished the 4½-mile race.

Two women have trained National winners -- Jenny Pitman (1983, `95) and Venetia Williams (2009).

Nina Carberry is the other leading female jockey in Britain. She is absent from the Aintree Festival this year while she serves a whip ban.


Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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