Sibling rivalry aside: Katie Walsh could make Grand National history

Katie Walsh with her Grand National mount Seabass.
Katie Walsh with her Grand National mount Seabass. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Sport fans are waiting to see if the Grand National, the world's most famous steeplechase, will get its first female winning jockey.

Amateur rider Katie Walsh, 28, is joining forces once again with mount Seabass whom she rode to third place in last year's race. It made her the most successful female Grand National jockey to date.

Today she lines up alongside brother Ruby, a double Grand National winner. In Seabass and On His Own, they are riding two of this year's most-fancied horses.

In 2012, she became the 15th female jockey to ride in the Grand National since Charlotte Brew made history on Barony Fort in 1977. Seabass's third place is the best finishing position.

Jockey Ruby Walsh competes against his sibling in today's Grand National.
Jockey Ruby Walsh competes against his sibling in today's Grand National. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Success would catapult her to sports superstardom not only across Britain and her native Ireland, but all around the globe. She has extensive riding experience including two winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

This is an incredibly exciting time in the Grand National's long history. Katie Walsh being on the brink of being the first woman to win the National represents a pivotal moment in the sport.

It is important to recognise that women can compete on equal terms with men in this event, and that their achievements as top athletes are recognised.

Having a female athlete come top in such a prestigious and well-loved race will be a breakthrough moment for women in sport.

– Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation chief executive Sue Tibballs

There is also another twist to the Walsh family story. Ted Walsh, Ruby and Katie's father, trains Seabass and Colbert Station, the mount of champion jockey AP McCoy who is another hot tip.

Nigel Twiston-Davies, the only current trainer to have won two Grand Nationals, with Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree in 2002, is looking for a third with Imperial Commander. His son Sam is due to race on the 12-year-old winner of the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Even in the current economic climate Ladbrokes predicts that up to £200 million could be bet on the race on the biggest day of the bookmaking year.

Ladbrokes said it had noticed a "number of bets where the feeling is a woman might win".

Tony McCoy, who will be riding with Colbert Station today, is tipped as one of the favourites.
Tony McCoy, who will be riding with Colbert Station today, is tipped as one of the favourites. Credit: John Giles/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Bookmaker Paddy Power has put on a number of special bets as punters are interested in the family connection.

The Walsh Specials are "currently a five figure market", a spokesman said. They have odds of 4/1 that either Katie or Ruby will win, 8/1 that both their mounts will be placed and 33/1 that the siblings will race to a one-two finish in any order.

William Hill have odds of 40-1 of a Walsh 1-2-3 with Colbert Station, Seabass and On His Own to fill the first three places in any order. They also make it 11-10 that Katie beats her brother in the race and 4-6 that Ruby finishes higher than Katie.

The Walsh family are racing royalty and have a great history with the Grand National, Ruby has ridden two winners and Ted has trained one already.

So it would be more than fitting if little sister Katie was the one to make it to the record books as the first female winner and she has a real chance on the horse she came third on last year.

Despite her amateur status, she is a very experienced rider and there is no doubt Katie and Seabass will be giving all the boys a run for their money.

– Walsh family spokesman

If Katie Walsh wins she would also be the first amateur victor since Marcus Armytage steered Mr Frisk to victory in 1990. Her amateur status also means she does not get paid for the ride and would not receive the normal professional jockey's 7% of the prize money, nearly £40,000 if she won the National.