Well done, sis

DOUBLE festival winner Katie Walsh revealed yesterday that she has no intention of turning professional despite her superb run of success at the Cheltenham Festival this week.

The 25-year-old rode her first ever festival winner on St Patrick’s Day, claiming the National Hunt Challenge Cup — a race for amateur jockeys only — which is precisely what she will remain.

Asked if beating professional riders in yesterday’s Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, on Thousand Stars, was an even greater feather in her cap, the 25-year old was quick to say that she treasures both equally.

“Either way, it is a winner at Cheltenham,” she said. “I don’t care who I beat, professional, amateur, whatever. The race the other day, it is fantastic for any amateur to win it. And now the County Hurdle, it is fabulous.”

It marked the end of an incredible week for Ruby’s sister who, up to as recently as last Sunday, didn’t have a ride in the festival and expected to spend the four days cheering on her brother.

“I didn’t expect to be riding (Thousand Stars) here. I was asked yesterday morning would I like to ride and I said yes. It’s a dream come true to win one, never mind two. It’s great to be just riding here but you get hungry, don’t you?”

Just like last Wednesday, Ruby gave his sibling a valuable piece of last-minute advice, warning her not to get out in front too early in what is accepted to be one of the festival’s toughest races. It worked a treat.

“She gave it a great little ride,” the pair’s father, Ted, said.

“She took her time on it. She won one here for Eric (McNamara) a few years ago and I thought that would be the highlight of her career but now she has won two here in the space of a week.”

Trainer Willie Mullins added: “I’m delighted and Katie is so cool and a fantastic rider. Even though she rides as an amateur, she’s got the brain of a professional and is fit and well.

“I love putting her up so it’s fantastic for her, fantastic for me and everyone.”

Howard Johnson, trainer of runner-up Arcalis, said: “He needed the ground faster. I’m a bit disappointed. It looked like they put water on the track as well as it raining.

“The handicapper has murdered him but there could be a race in him, maybe one at Sandown next month.”

Denis O’Regan, the rider of Arcalis, was handed a three-day ban for weighing-in 3lb heavy.

Walsh’s second success followed on the heels of Barry Geraghty’s third of the week, on board Soldatino in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle. Nicky Henderson’s horse ate up a gap of 15 lengths on Barizan in a storming finish.

“We jumped the third last and Davy Russell gave Andy (McNamara) a shout to say ‘that thing in front has won five’ and I said ‘it’s a bit f***ing late to be worrying about him now lads’.

“He went so quick he had to come back and I pushed it along down the hill, then as much as I could but always leaving enough to get home. I knew turning in that I would get him alright and I had him halfway up to the last.”

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