National jockey Walsh defends sport
Irish jockey Katie Walsh has defended the sport from criticism, saying that the horses are treated better than "many children".
Walsh, 28, finished third on Seabass in last year's world-famous English Grand National steeplechase, becoming the highest-placed woman in the history of the race.
But the English race was plunged into fresh criticism when two horses died following their injuries despite the introduction of new safety measures.
Following accusations of animal cruelty, more changes have now been made to the fences at Aintree.
But Walsh told the Radio Times: "Any changes that make it safer are a good thing, but I hope they leave it at this and don't change anything else. I hope to God there are no accidents this year, but these things happen, and they are horses at the end of the day."
She said: "I don't mean that in a cruel way, but to see (fellow jockey) John Thomas McNamara get a horrible fall at Cheltenham... for the minute he's gone from the neck down, and that's a different deal altogether in my eyes."
Walsh said that those who criticise horse racing as a cruel sport do not understand it, telling the magazine: "Anyone who gets up on Christmas Day and mucks out loves animals. Sure, it's a dangerous sport. But every night, all over the world, a lot of horses are left out in fields starving."
The amateur rider said: "These horses are so well looked after. Better than some children, to be honest with you. I don't read the criticism because it's not worth it. And 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."
Walsh, whose brother Ruby is one of the world's greatest jump jockeys, insisted that she has never detected any sexism in the weighing-room, where riders congregate.
"I'm 28 and I've been in the weighing-room since I was 18, 19 years of age. I've grown up with them all, and there's great craic," she said. "They're all great fellas. Sure, there's the odd time that I might get a comment from a punter roaring over the rails, but I wouldn't pay much attention to them."