herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Katie Walsh: Female jockeys can hold their own

Jockey Katie Walsh.
Jockey Katie Walsh.

I think it’s right to start this week with my views on women in racing. Ever since Michelle Payne won the Melbourne Cup at the start of the month, it’s been a topic of discussion and then last weekend AP McCoy expressed his view that lady riders should have an allowance just for being lady riders.

Like a perfect script, within 24 hours of AP making his comments, Nina came out and rode a double at Cheltenham and the whole thing took off again.

Firstly, I can’t comment on Michelle Payne really, I can only comment on Katie Walsh. Michelle is a professional Flat jockey in Australia and I’m a amateur National Hunt jockey in Ireland.

We, quite literally, are world’s apart.

Michelle clearly feels there are issues down there or else, on the biggest day of her life, she wouldn’t have made the comments, but I can’t tell you whether she’s right or wrong.

What I can say is that I don’t agree with AP on giving us an allowance to ride against the men.

I can see what he’s saying but that is racing and that’s what makes it unique.

If you ask a girl growing up what she wants to be, she’ll probably tell you a nurse, or a physio or a teacher or whatever, but very few will say a National Hunt jockey .

Josies Orders, with Nina Carberry up (right) clears the last on the way to winning The Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham
Josies Orders, with Nina Carberry up (right) clears the last on the way to winning The Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham

That doesn’t mean she can’t do it. The option is still there and I have gone down the road of being a National Hunt jockey and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

If a man wants to be a hairdresser, there’s nothing stopping him in this world.

So if I want to take on the lads in bumpers or the 21 professional races I’m allowed ride in each year, well then I’ll do that and to the best of my ability.

Any jockey would love to ride a double at any Cheltenham meeting. Nina did it last week because she is good enough.

Of course, you’ll get people saying it’s because I’m a Walsh or she’s a Carberry, but I’ve been given loads of opportunities by Willie Mullins because of my ability. Nina rode her first winner for Noel Meade. It doesn’t matter what your surname is. Just look at Cathy Gannon and Hayley Turner.

Every jockey starts off with a 7lb claim and if you are good enough and aren’t stopped by injury or weight issues you’ll go through your claim and if you don’t you aren’t good enough.  We don’t need an extra allowance.

Don’t for one second think that just because Dad trained Seabass that I would have ridden him in Aintree if I had messed up on him in Limerick or Leopardstown. I wouldn’t.

But I did prove when I got the opportunity that I could ride him and that’s why I rode him at Aintree.

Looking, briefly, ahead to the weekend and two horses making their comeback for the season are Foxrock and Baie Des Iles at Navan on Sunday. Foxrock will go on to run in a chase next but it’s a nice starting point and Baie Des Iles, trained by my husband, is a nice filly who is still only a baby but seems to have gotten stronger over the summer.

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