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Walsh delighted as she ends career on high at Punchestown

 

By Martin Kelly

Katie Walsh announced she is to retire from race-riding after steering Antey to a narrow success at the Punchestown Festival.

The leading amateur, who is the daughter of Grand National-winning trainer Ted Walsh and sister of National Hunt riding great Ruby, has enjoyed an excellent career in the saddle.

Walsh claimed a Cheltenham Festival double in 2010 aboard Poker De Sivola and Thousand Stars and was back in the Prestbury Park winner's circle again last month after steering the Willie Mullins-trained Relegate to success in the Champion Bumper.

She came in for the ride on Mullins' 9-1 shot Antey in the SalesSense International Novice Hurdle after his intended jockey Danny Mullins was injured earlier in the day and managed to get him up by a nose from Shady Operator.

She returned to the winner's enclosure in tears and immediately made the shock announcement.

Walsh said: "It's been on my mind for the last while and there's another chapter in life.

"I wanted to go out on a winner, whether it be here or wherever it may be. I just said when I rode the next winner that would be it.

"It was just the way it worked out, to get a spare ride in a handicap hurdle and ride a winner for Willie makes it extra special."

Walsh achieved the highest-placed finish by any female rider in the history of the Grand National at Aintree when third aboard Seabass for her father in 2012.

She rode in the race for a sixth time last month when last of 12 finishers aboard Baie Des Iles, trained by her husband Ross O'Sullivan.

Walsh, who also won the 2015 Irish Grand National on Thunder And Roses, added: "I wanted to ride in a National for Ross and did that, and have ridden winners in France, Australia, England and Ireland, and was very lucky throughout my career.

"I've had the backing of dad and Ross and wouldn't have ridden half these winners without the backing of Willie.

"I've had a marvellous career and I have unbelievable memories. Everyone is here, and Punchestown - I couldn't get a better place to go out, with my family and Ross present.

"I've gotten some great opportunities on horses like Thousand Stars. I've ridden in more Grade Ones than I can count.

"It's just the right time for me. I'd like to thank everyone I've ridden winners for.

"All good things come to an end. I would loved to have won an English National. That didn't happen, but every other dream I have fulfilled."

On the day he claimed his 12th Irish trainers' championship, Mullins paid tribute to Walsh.

He said: "Katie has been a big part of our team for many years, and I'm hugely honoured that we were lucky enough to give her that last winner."

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