Two of the most successful female jockeys of all time have both announced their retirement within days of each other. Katie Walsh made the announcement on April 27th, following her last win at Punchestown on Antey after intended jockey Danny Mullins was injured earlier in the day, with Nina Carberry announcing her retirement the next day after her last win on Josies Orders.
Walsh said “I've had a marvellous career and I've unbelievable memories. The next chapter in life begins now.
“I said to myself that I'd retire whenever I rode my next winner, whether it be here at Punchestown or wherever.
“I'd be the first one sitting at home saying: ‘When is she going to be hanging up her boots?'”
Katie Walsh is the highest-placed female finisher of a Grand National when she was third in the 2012 Aintree showpiece on Seabass. In 2018 she was on board Baie des Iles who is trained by her husband Ross O”sullivan and while she got around the Aintree showpiece, she could only manage to 12th place.
She said “I wanted to ride in a National for Ross and did that, and have ridden winners in France, Australia, England and Ireland and was very lucky throughout my career.
“I've had the backing of dad and Ross, and wouldn't have ridden half these winners without the backing of Willie.
“Everyone is here, my husband Ross and my family. I couldn't have picked a better place.”
The 2015 Irish Grand National winner received a guard of honour from her fellow jockeys as she returned to the weighing room for the final time.
The following day, Nina Carberry also announced her retirement from the sport after winning the opening race at Punchestown on Saturday.
Carberry, who is married to Katie Walsh's brother Ted, bowed out after winning on the Enda Bolger-trained Josies Orders in the cross-country contest.
Carberry said: “It’s sweet to finish off on a winner. I had more or less decided I would stop today regardless.
“I’m delighted to have won on Josies Orders for JP and Enda as I’ve enjoyed many great days with them.
“I'm sad it’s finished and I’ll miss the banter in the weighing room, but it’s time to move on.
“I’d like to thank JP and Enda for the massive support they gave me over the years and also Noel [Meade], to whom I owe a lot, and Gordon Elliott and the Gigginstown team who, with many others, were good supporters during my career.
“Trainers like Noel and Gordon are who you want to be riding for.”
Carberry won two Grade 1s in a stellar career, becoming the first female jump jockey in Ireland or Britain to win a top-flight race when landing the Grade 1 bumper at the Punchestown festival in 2006 on Leading Run for long-time supporter Meade.
Other big-race winners included the 2011 Irish Grand National on Organisedconfusion, trained by her uncle Arthur Moore, while she partnered seven winners at the Cheltenham Festival, making her the most successful female jockey in festival history.
Carberry revealed she and sister-in-law Walsh had not revealed their intentions to retire to each other until this week.
She said: “I was walking the course on Tuesday with Katie and I said to her that this would be my last Punchestown, and she said to me ‘I’ve something to tell you as well, I’m going to retire upon my next winner'.
“We didn’t know what each was planning. We had a little hug and a cry.”
Walsh and Carberry smashed the glass ceiling of national hunt racing, proving time and time again that female jockeys were as capable and successful as their male counterparts and now that these two legendary sportswomen have decided to call it a day, the way has been paved for even more women to come up through the ranks.
Neither realised the dream of becoming the first to win the Aintree Grand National but with the likes of Bryony Frost, Lisa O'Neill, Rachael Blackmore and Bridget Andrews coming into their own, maybe we won't have to wait much longer to see the fairytale.