Walsh has high hopes for Baie Des Iles in Wales Grand National
Retired jockey says the grey mare bigger and stronger for the test this time around
Katie Walsh with Kieran Mulvey (Chairman of Sport Ireland) and Malachy Logan (Irish Times Sports Editor) at the Sportswoman of the Year awards. Walsh was a winner for the month of March. Photograph Nick Bradshaw
Eight months after retiring from the saddle, Katie Walsh is once more part of a plot to bag a major British jumps race.
Baie Des Iles, trained by her husband, Ross O’Sullivan, is being lined up for next week’s Welsh Grand National and has shortened to a general 12-1 in recent days as punters begin to see possibilities in the grey mare, last sighted in this country when giving Walsh her final spin around Aintree in the National itself.
“She’s in good form,” Walsh said.
“Her first run back of the season was in France, she ran very well to a point. She took a blow, so she’s come on from that. She ran in the Welsh National two years ago as a five-year-old. She’s a bigger, stronger mare now. It’s a great pot, she has a nice weight and the conditions suit, so she’s got to go and take her chance.”
Baie Des Iles evidently attracted some support for the Aintree National, judging by her starting price of 16-1. She managed no better than 12th but Walsh says that should not be taken at face value.
“It was a great experience, lovely to be able to ride her for Ross. She’s a super jumper and she took to the fences well. I was getting a great spin but, like so many other people in the National, we didn’t get the luck that you need. She got badly bumped by a loose horse at Valentine’s and lost her chance.
“I hunted her home, looked after her, there wasn’t a bother on her and she came out of it well, went to France a few weeks later and won a big race in Auteuil.”
Walsh rides out at O’Sullivan’s yard and spends her evenings chewing over work plans and running plans with her husband. But most of her work life these days is taken up with the yearlings she keeps at her father’s place, “literally half a mile away across a field”, where she prepares them for eventual resale.
Asked if she has any regrets about retirement, she is unequivocal.
“Not at all, absolutely love it. I had a great career, I miss it but I’m very busy between Dad’s and Ross’s. It was the right time to go. I didn’t want to go when I wasn’t getting rides any more.”
Cheekily, I ask if she has ever raised the subject of retirement with her older brother.
“Absolutely not!” she says, sounding genuinely horrified.
“Jeez, I wouldn’t even bring that up. No, definitely not. Ruby won’t be going anywhere, I’d say, for a very long time.”