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Racing: Katie Walsh out to create another National fairytale

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The world's greatest steeplechase the Grand National badly needs a good news story and in Saturday's renewal the Walsh family could well provide it if Katie becomes the first woman rider to win it.

Father Ted saddles two runners, Seabass and Colbert Station, both of them among the favourites but it is the former one that will attract the most attention as it is the mount of his daughter Katie.

Should she win she would complete a full house of victories for the family as Ted trained and Ruby rode Papillon to victory in 2000 - Katie then 16 was fittingly the horse's stablegirl.

Last year saw her and Seabass go tantalisingly close as seemingly full of steam coming round the final bend he ran out of puff and finished a highly creditable third.

This year Seabass is vying for favouritism with the Willie Mullins-trained On His Own, a faller at Becher's Brook second time round in 2012, which is the likely mount of two-time National winning brother Ruby.

Katie does not wish to comtemplate what will be running through her mind or indeed Ruby's should they be upsides each other jumping the last of the 30 fences on Saturday.

"It could easily be him (Ruby) alongside if we're jumping there at the last. But that's one thing that I really haven't thought about," the 28-year-old told The Observer.

Katie Walsh is not one to hide her opinions and has already attracted criticism this week.

For in a year when the race is in the spotlight as never before with regard to equine fatalities - after introducing several reforms following four fatalities in the past two runnings - she didn't hold back in defending people involved in horse racing.

"Anyone who gets up on Christmas Day and mucks out loves animals," she told the Radio Times.

"Sure, it's a dangerous sport. But every night, all over the world, a lot of horses are left out in fields starving.

"These horses are so well looked after. Better than some children, to be honest with you."

She also put the deaths of the well-fancied Synchronised and According to Pete in last year's race into perspective.

"At the end of the day it would be a lot worse if it had been two jockeys who lost their lives. I think everyone should remember that," she said.

Her forthright remarks received a cool reception from several people including Claude Knights, head of a children's charity.

"Obviously we have a duty of care to look after animals but it doesn't compare to the duty of care we have for our children," she said.

"I don't think making comparisons helps either cause."

Walsh, though, is on firmer and safer ground when she contemplates the challenge that lies ahead for her on Saturday, and is icily realistic which will give those who have already backed Seabass cause for regret.

"It would be fairytale stuff to win and I'd love to be part of it, but you can't go into the race thinking about winning it," she told The Observer.

"I might go down to the first and hit it and fall, and it's all over. I don't think I could have finished any closer last year and, 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."

However, come what may there will be no recriminations from her dad should she fail to win and there will be a brotherly arm around her shoulders from Ruby, though, she bristles at the fact she is pinpointed at possibly becoming the first woman to ride the winner.

"When I think of myself, it's as a successful amateur and a successful jockey, but not as a successful female, that doesn't really come into it," Walsh says.

"When I pulled up last year, I never thought, it's great that I've finished third because I'm a girl. It just felt great to be third in the National, there was no female perspective at all.

"It's what I've been doing since I was 19, and I'm 28 now. I'm just in the weighing room doing something I love."

pi/nr13

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130402/racing-katie-walsh-out-create-another-national-fairytale