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Top jockey Katie joins the Herald for Cheltenham

JOCKEY Katie Walsh (26) has joined forces with the Herald for this year's Cheltenham Festival.

Katie will sport the Herald colours, and will write a daily column from the Cotswolds course next week.

The highly talented amateur stunned the racing world by having two winners at the National Hunt Festival last year.

"As if next week wasn't going to be special anyway, the fact that I will be sporting the Herald logo and writing for Ireland's best racing paper too, is the cherry on top," said Katie today.

"Cheltenham will always have a special place in my heart. I was 12 the very first year my parents ever took me. It was 1997 and that was the year that Commanche Court, who was trained by my father Ted, won the Triumph Hurdle.

"I was watching as he passed the line and all I could do was burst out crying. I knew this was big and something important had happened."

And Katie revealed the magic behind Cheltenham: "Obviously my brother Ruby has always had a great following over there, the British supporters are just fantastic. After I got two winners last year, I started getting loads of lovely letters and that was just fantastic.

"Right now, it's too soon to say who I'll be riding, you can't be 100pc certain until the declaration stage. I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

"Last year, I went out with no ride and ended up getting two rides and two winners but that was just so surreal. I don't think anyone thinks that's going to happen again -- least of all me!

"My parents rent the same place near the course every year so that's really handy. In terms of preparation for the festival, I'm lucky in the sense that I'm quite light anyway. I don't really have to watch what I eat," she added.

"I really don't know what makes Cheltenham such a magical place. I just think the crowd in England are phenomenal.

"They always give a great reception to the jockeys and the horses. Having a win there is an unbelievable feeling -- I can't put it into words. Riding the first winner was just unbelievable and then to run a second one, I was going 'is this really happening?' It really is a magical place and I'll never forget that feeling, for as long as I live."

hnews@herald.ie