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Walsh gives West Ham United stars Cheltenham Festival pointers

Former amateur jockey Katie Walsh has given a trio of West Ham United stars an insight into what it takes to be a winner at the Cheltenham Festival.

The youngest daughter of Irish trainer Ted Walsh knows a thing or two about success on the biggest stage having ridden three winners at the National Hunt showpiece.

Walsh won the County Hurdle on Thousand Stars, the National Hunt Chase with Poker De Sivola and the Champion Bumper on Relegate, cementing her status as one of the best female jockeys of her generation.

In a recent chat with Betway, Walsh joined Mark Noble, Jarrod Bowen and Aaron Cresswell to discuss the similarities between their respective professions.

When asked about riding a winner at the Festival, Walsh compared the experience to succeeding at the top level in football.

“It’s a bit like the Premier League for you guys, or to win that,” she said.

“Everyone, when they set out as a trainer or a jockey, they want to ride at Cheltenham and then they want to ride a winner at Cheltenham and it’s extremely hard to do. But that’s what it would probably be like – it’s just an unbelievable feeling.

“It’s just like getting a gold medal or scoring that winning goal – everyone wants to be that person don’t they? You’re doing plenty of that.”

Hammers’ manager David Moyes also got in on the Cheltenham Festival fun during a one-to-one with Irish trainer Ross O’Sullivan.

He grew up close to the Curragh racecourse, making his progression into the training ranks a foregone conclusion.

O’Sullivan was out of luck with his runner on the opening day of the 2022 Festival as Sea Sessions finished down the field in the Boodles Hurdle.

He told Moyes that he is under massive pressure from the owners to get results, particularly when the major meetings are staged.

“It’s the same as anything – it’s expectancy, you know,” O’Sullivan said.

“It’s like, if you have a great year this year and you finish in the top four, next year if you don’t finish in the top four, it’s like, what happened?”

While there are similarities in the pressure level in horse racing and football, there are significant differences in the way trainers and coaches can influence proceedings.

O’Sullivan admits that his ability to affect the outcome of a race ends the moment the jockey heads out onto the track with the horse.

“We prepare the horse for the race,” O’Sullivan added. “I suppose you can talk to them through a race, we can’t and you have to trust them.

“You give them a bit of information going out before the race, about the horse, but you try not to tie them down to too many instructions because if I say: ‘From a mile from home I want you sitting in third, and before you turn into the straight I want you sitting in second’.

“You have to be able to trust that the jockey rides with instinct.”

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