Women And The Grand National – Building On Walsh’s Irish Success

Yesterday Sandra Hughes’ Thunder And Roses picked up the Irish Grand National under the guidance of Katie Walsh, who became only the third woman in the race’s history to lead a horse to victory in the Fairyhouse spectacle. Ann Ferris was the first when aboard Bentom Boy in 1984 before Nina Carberry finished first past the post on Organisedconfusion 27 years later.

Walsh’s success in this season’s renewal has re-focused the public’s interest on the likelihood of a female jockey taking the crown in the Aintree original, something we try to address in this post.

Women in the Grand National

Women have featured in the Grand National as riders 18 times since 1977 with at least one female jockey taking part in each of the races of the past five years. Back in 2012, Walsh became the highest finishing woman when taking third on 8/1 joint-favourite Seabass.

Prior to Rosemary Henderson’s ride on Fiddlers Pike in 1994, only one woman had managed to complete the Grand National distance. This was Geraldine Rees on Cheers back in 1982. Since Henderson’s fifth placed finish, only once has a female failed to go the distance when given a ride, this was Nina Carberry in 2012 when unseating on 2011 Irish National winner Organisedconfusion. That’s eight women completing from nine rides.

Trivia: Highly respected trainer Venetia Williams once look her place in the National line up as an amateur jockey, falling at the sixth on outsider Marcolo (1988). She would go on to train race winner Mon Mome in 2009, following in the footsteps of successful female trainer Jenny Pitman (Corbiere, 1983 and Royal Athlete 1995) and preceding Sue Smith (Auroras Encore, 2013).

This year’s Grand National

William Hill have odds of 6/1 on a female rider picking up the Grand National title by the year 2020, could this be the year?

As it stands only one female jockey will be lining up at the starting post at 16:15 on Saturday, that being Nina Carberry who is booked to take the ride on Mouse Morris’ First Lieutenant.

Walsh has been linked with a ride on David Pipe’s Festival runner-up Broadway Buffalo though it looks increasingly unlikely that he will make the cut. This does not mean that she definitely won’t appear in this year’s race, however. Last season she got the call to replace the injured Mikey Fogarty on Vesper Bell on the day of the race. The pair finished in 13th.

In terms of trainers, Karen McLintock (Carlito Brigante), Rebecca Curtis (Bob Ford) and Emma Lavelle (Court By Surprise) should all have runners this year with Dianne Sayer’s Baileys Concerto ready to take his place should there be a withdrawal prior to Thursday’s final declarations.

Jockeys’ views

Despite unfortunately not yet securing a ride in this year’s race, Walsh has had her say on the chances of a woman riding a winner in the 4m, 3f Aintree spectacular.

‘You need to have the horse and if you don’t have the horse you are not going to win the National. But the female’s ability isn’t the problem.’ She told the Daily Mail following her Fairyhouse success.

The retiring 19-time champion jockey Tony McCoy also added his support to the cause, telling the Racing Post it was ‘only a matter of time’ before a female rider added her name to the roll call of previous winners.

‘I think they are very capable, those three [Walsh, Carberry and Lucy Alexander] in particular and there’s no reason why they can’t win the Grand National if they get on the right horse.’

Check out how we rate First Lieutenant as well as our tips for the Grand National by selecting this link!

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