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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Ted and Ruby Walsh pay tribute to Katie following her heroic farewell triumph

Katie Walsh with her biggest fan and father, Ted
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Ted Walsh paid tribute on Friday night to the valiant nature of his daughter Katie's dramatic swansong victory aboard Antey after the 33-year-old defied the closing gloom to light up Punchestown by bringing the curtain down on her glorious career as an amateur jockey.

A late replacement for the sidelined Noel Fehily, Walsh brought the Willie Mullins-trained 9-1 shot with a thrilling last-gasp lunge to chin the Barry Geraghty-ridden Shady Operator by a nose on the line.

It proved a fitting illustration of the three-time Cheltenham Festival-winning rider's inherent skill and ferociously determined nature, and her proud father was holding back the tears on an emotionally-charged night that saw his daughter's weighing room colleagues form a guard of honour as she left the winner's enclosure.

"It's a great day but it's a sad day," Walsh said of his daughter's retirement.

"She will have great memories of this, to get in a tussle with Barry, a great jockey, and come out the right side of it. It was a lovely way for her to end. It is a sad day for (his wife) Helen and myself because we have got great joy out of it, great fun, but it is a great day as well.

"She has had a wonderful life and she has done more things than she ever thought she would do. She rode winners in Cheltenham, France and Australia, rode an Irish National winner and rode in the English National six times, sure what more could she do."

Walsh, who won the Champion Bumper aboard Mullins's Relegate last month, spoke in similarly appreciative terms. She explained that she had it in her head to go out on a winner in recent weeks, and capitalised on this last-minute chance to do just that in spectacular style.

"All good things come to an end and I'm just happy that it's on my terms," she said as she did her best to keep it all together.

"I'm just delighted to ride this winner at Punchestown because I've been coming here since I was a child and I've been lucky enough to have ridden some great winners and great horses here in the past.

"To ride my last winner for Willie - besides Dad and Ross he's the next man in line so I'm delighted. And the way it worked out, to get a spare ride in a handicap hurdle for Willie makes it extra special.

"That's just the way racing goes sometimes. It's full of surprises and it was a great surprise. I'm delighted it all worked out on the day."

Looking further back after her decision to concentrate fully on assisting her father and growing her own breeze-up operation, she added: "I've had a fabulous career and have nothing but brilliant memories but this is another chapter. I want to go out while it's going this way.

"I'd be the first person sitting at home saying, jeez, when is she going to hang up her boots. I wanted to go out on my own terms, so it is a relief.

Horse racing: Katie Walsh is clapped back in by her colleagues after announcing her retirement

"I wanted to ride in a National for Ross and I've done that, and I've been very lucky throughout my career to have the backing of Dad and Ruby and my family and Ross and Willie. I wouldn't have ridden half of these winners without the backing of him.

"It's just the right time for me and I'd like to thank everyone I've ridden winners for.

"Like a lot of jockeys I never thought I'd ride a Cheltenham winner, so to ride one on Hordago for Eric McNamara at the November meeting was as good as March for me. And then to win the four-miler for Ferdy Murphy on Poker De Sivola and then Thousand Stars the same year.

"I had to wait a long time for the next one, but it has been a remarkable career. I rode in six Nationals - I never thought I'd ride in one. Like everybody else, I'd have love to have won an English National and that didn't happen. But every other dream I had came true."

Walsh became just the third female jockey to win the Irish Grand National when she excelled aboard Sandra Hughes' Thunder And Roses in 2015. She is achieved the highest finish for a female jockey in the original of the species at Aintree, having partnered her father's Seabass into third behind Neptunes Collonges in 2012.

Of the 180 fences she tackled in the Grand National, she successfully negotiated 178.

Asked about how hard it was watching his youngest daughter race riding, Walsh responded: "I was afraid all the time. Every time," he said. "But there is nothing I can do about it. It's what she wanted to do and I'm behind her.

"I'm sure it's the same with a fella whose girls want to be fighter pilots or whatever. It's what they want to do. It's their life, not mine."

No less than everyone else on site, Ruby could barely get the words out, but paid a glowing tribute to his little sister when he did.

"She's brilliant and she has had a great career," he said. "She is a determined individual and always was as a kid. I'm delighted for her. She didn't give away any of the opportunities she got - she took every one of them. I am proud of her and have always been proud to say that she is my little sister."

Read Katie Walsh's recent Grand National interview here 

All good things come to an end and I'm just happy that it's on my terms
E.W. Terms
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