Page 3 Profile: Katie Walsh, jockey


Potentially the first female winner of the Grand National?

The 28-year-old finished third on Seabass last year, making her the highest-placed woman in the event's history. On Saturday, she's looking to go two better, and will compete against her brother, Ruby, and up to 38 other jockeys for one of the most prestigious prizes in horse racing.

So that's all good then?

Not quite. Nine animals have died during or been put down after the past 10 Grand Nationals, including two last year. In response to accusations that the event is cruel, the infamous Becher's Brook fence has been softened and jockeys have been asked to slow up before the first fence. But campaigners are gathering at the racecourse over the weekend to argue these safety changes are inadequate. Animal Aid is parading an ambulance through Liverpool this week showing the injuries sustained to horses while the cosmetics retailer Lush will display a tombstone in the front window of its Leeds branch. Ms Walsh, however, has made comments unlikely to appease the protesters.

She won't be starring in a Peta advert any time soon?

"Sure, it's a dangerous sport," she told the Radio Times. "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."

So no Christmas card from the RSPCA?

Unlikely. "At the end of the day it would be a lot worse if it had been two jockeys who lost their lives," she added, referring to the two horses which died last year. "I think everyone should remember that."

How does she feel about the changes to the course?

A mixed bag. "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. 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."