It’s common knowledge that no female jockey has ever won the Aintree Grand National. Katie Walsh came closest when finishing in third place on Seabass in 2012, giving her the highest finish for a female competitor.
It now looks very likely that she will once again be taking to the Aintree fences on board Baie Des Iles for Irish trainer Ross O’Sullivan. And if ever there was a Grand National entry that had to defy so many statistics to win, it is this one.
This is the first ever entry for Ross O’Sullivan, who also happens to be married to Katie Walsh. Baie Des Iles is also just seven years old and despite plenty being entered over the years, no seven year old has actually won the famous race since Bogskar back in 1940.
Baie Des Iles is also a mare and the most recent winning mare was Nickel Coin back in 1951. The really good news is that since then, the mares Gentle Moya (2nd 1956), Tiberetta (3rd 1957 and 2nd 1958), Miss Hunter (3rd 1970), Eyecatcher (3rd 1976 and 1977), Auntie Dot (3rd 1991), Ebony Jane (4th 1994) and Dubacilla (4th 1995) have all finished in the first four!
Baie Des Iles is also a Grey. Traditionally the grey runners have had loyal support which was rewarded when Neptune Collonges won for trainer Paul Nicholls in 2012, ironically beating Katie Walsh on Seabass. And while that was only six years ago, Neptune Collonges was only the third grey in history to win the race.
So what we have in Bair Des Iles is a Grey, seven year old mare, with a female jockey on board. That may seem like a formula for the most unlikely of winners but punters love a great underdog and I have no doubt that they will get behind Baie Des Iles and Katie Walsh and back the horse into much shorter odds than the current ante-post 66/1 that bookmakers are offering.
Trainer O’Sullivan said: “She’s going for the English National. The weights came out a couple of weeks ago and she was given 10st 4lb. She had a nice prep run in Punchestown, giving 12lb away to the winner and 10lb to the second horse.
“It’s all systems go for Aintree.
“She won’t run (before the National). She’s had three runs and she’s best fresh. She’ll have a couple of racecourse gallops in between.
“It’s fingers crossed – I’m really looking forward to it.”
Katie Walsh has partnered Baie Des Iles ten times since 2015 and finished third last time out at Punchestown in the Boylesports Grand National Trial handicap Chase on February 11th, a race they won in 2017.