Grand National: Katie Walsh defends legendary Aintree race

Katie Walsh, 28-year old female jockey, has defended the Grand National over cruelty claims and believes the horses are treated very well despite recent deaths. Walsh finished third on Seabass last year to become the highest-placed female jockey in the race's history. But two horses lost their lives during the race despite new safety measures and the world-famous steeplechase was heavily criticised.

"These horses are so well looked after. Better than some children, to be honest with you," Walsh said. "Anyone who gets up on Christmas Day and mucks out loves animals. Sure, it's a dangerous sport. But every night, all over the world, a lot of horses are left out in fields starving. I don't read the criticism because it's not worth it. And at the end of the day it would be a lot worse if it had been two jockeys who lost their lives. I think everyone should remember that."

Changes announced for this year's Grand National on 6 April include shortening the distance to four miles and three-and-a-half furlongs from four-and-a-half miles and changing the core of fences from wood to a flexible plastic material. After last year's race, in which According To Pete and Synchronised died, the British Horseracing Authority wrote to all 40 riders in the race expressing its disappointment at the jockeys' behavior at the start. Riders are being advised to be calm at the beginning of the race, along with the following modifications: "The start has been moved forward 90 yards to create a quieter environment and hopefully reduce the tension for all concerned. The line will be well back from the tape and jockeys will be requested to line up at or on the line, prior to the starter starting the race."

Walsh is hoping there are no more changes to the legendary steeplechase as she revealed her concern for fellow jockey JT McNamara, who was paralysed by injuries sustained in a fall at the Cheltenham Festival. "Any changes that make it safer are a good thing, but I hope they leave it at this and don't change anything else," she said. "I hope to God there are no accidents this year, but these things happen, and they are horses at the end of the day. I don't mean that in a cruel way, but to see John Thomas McNamara get a horrible fall at Cheltenham - that's a different deal altogether in my eyes."

You can already bet on the outcome of the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree on April 6th, here are the odds for the top five favourites at Bet365:

On His Own - 7/1
Seabass - 9/1
Cappa Bleu - 11/1
Colbert Station - 11/1
Chicago Grey - 12/1

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