The Walsh family Aintree dynasty


Few families can lay claim to a chunk of Aintree history as sizeable as the Walsh’s from Kill in Co Kildare.

Together they’ve created an Aintree legacy pretty much unmatched.

Father Ted (not that one!) has trained the winner of a Grand National and had the privilege of watching his son Ruby ride Papillon to glory, while his daughter, Katie, is the highest-placed finishing female rider in the history of the Randox Health Grand National.

Papillon storms to victory

This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Ted Walsh trained Papillon winning the Grand National under the steer of his son Ruby, whilst he was led-up by then-teenager Katie.

Papillon was a very well-supported contender for the National in 2000, his price contracting right down to 10/1 before the off.

He was given a forward ride by Ruby Walsh and took up the running five fences from home. Mely Moss and Norman Williamson arrived to challenge at the final fences but Papillon was not for beating, holding him off just over a length to prevail and give the Walsh family their unbridled moment of Aintree glory.

Incredibly, Ted and Ruby would team up again four weeks later at Fairyhouse as Commanche Court won the Irish National.

That was the spring that Ruby Walsh truly announced himself on the big stage.

Five years later he partnered the Willie Mullins-trained Hedgehunter to victory for his second Grand National success around Aintree.

Walsh’s career was a fairytale to most. His haul of 59 Cheltenham Festival winners is a record and, in partnership with the likes of Mullins and Paul Nicholls; he was a massive part in the careers of superstars like Kauto Star, Big Buck’s and Hurricane Fly.

He was crowned champion jockey in Ireland 12 times and retired last spring immediately after steering Kemboy to victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

Katie comes close on Seabass

In 2012 the Walsh clan were at it again around Aintree as the Ted-trained Seabass was sent off joint-favourite with Katie on board.

Seabass had returned from an absence of close to two years earlier that season and arrived in Liverpool having won all four starts, two with Katie on board and two with Ruby up.

With her older brother sidelined with injury, Katie got the leg up on Seabass around Aintree and there was intense scrutiny at the prospect of a first female rider winning the great race.

It was all looking good at the third last as Seabass hit the front but the eventual winner Neptune Collonges and Sunnyhillboy came to spoil the party, that pair eventually split at the line by a flared nostril as Seabass and Katie Walsh came home five-lengths behind in third spot.

Her Aintree achievement remains a standout for a female rider but, with the likes of Rachel Blackmore and Bryony Frost doing so much for the fairer sex; how much longer will it last?

Katie Walsh rode in the Grand National on six occasions, only once failing to complete the course, and her final spin around the Aintree test came in 2018 on board the grey Baie Des Isles – trained by her husband, Ross O’Sullivan.

A year before her brother, she too retired on the back of a winning ride at the Punchestown Festival, going out on a high note after steering Antey to victory in a novices’ hurdle for Willie Mullins in the Rich Ricci silks.

Can any family lay claim to a more sizeable chapter in the Aintree history book than the Walsh household?

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