Grand National: Aintree showpiece delivers another fairytale ending as Sam Waley-Cohen bows out in style on Noble Yeats | Racing News

“It’s been a love affair”, beamed Sam Waley-Cohen after his fairytale farewell on Noble Yeats in the 2022 Grand National, the race that just keeps giving.

Ever since the 39-year-old announced his intention to retire following the Aintree showpiece, many eyes were cast on the former Gold Cup-winning rider, yet few could have dreamt his story would end like it did.

Offered up as a 50/1 outsider, Emmet Mullins’ horse – owned by Sam’s father Robert – should have, on paper at least, come home some way back.

But this is the Grand National. Where the diminutive Tiger Roll once defied his doubters to triumph in consecutive years and where last year Rachael Blackmore became a household hero by becoming the first female-winning rider.

Here, in front of packed grandstands for the first time since 2019, Waley-Cohen’s final chapter would also befit the most romantic of novels.

Sam Waley-Cohen celebrates victory on Noble Yeats in the Grand National
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Waley-Cohen celebrates as Noble Yeats crosses the line at Aintree

The Waley-Cohen story

A Corinthian is defined as “involving the highest standards of amateur sportsmanship”. That certainly applies to Waley-Cohen.

The amateur jockey bows out having achieved more than many of his professional weighing room colleagues will ever manage, all while also running his own group of dental practices.

It’s always been a family affair for Waley-Cohen, who has long sported the colours of his father Robert and mother Felicity.

He became the first amateur in 30 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup when steering the Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run – owned by his father – to victory in 2011. He also twice won the King George VI Chase at Kempton aboard the same horse.

Waley-Cohen poses father Robert (left) after Long Run's victory in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup
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Waley-Cohen poses with father Robert (left) after Long Run’s victory in the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Waley-Cohen was also quick to reference his brother Thomas, who died aged 20 in 2004 after suffering from cancer.

“I do think Thomas is sitting on my back, I ride with his name in my saddle,” Waley-Cohen said.

“These days are family days, and you couldn’t make it up, could you?

“It’s unbelievable and hasn’t sunk in. It’s a fantasy really.”

The Waley-Cohen family celebrate Grand National victory at Aintree
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The Waley-Cohen family celebrate Grand National victory at Aintree

The winning rider added: “Dad has always supported me unwaveringly, we’ve never had a cross word, it’s always been for fun. It’s been a love affair. To my wife, long-suffering, they aren’t all good days, there are bad days in this sport.

“We came here thinking the sun’s out, it’s your last ride – go and have a nice spin, no expectations. Just enjoy it.

“It’s a dream. I couldn’t believe it.

“That’s definitely it now, I’m done. I always knew when I had second thoughts about getting out of bed to go and ride one it would be time to call it a day and I couldn’t think of anywhere better to go out than this.

“The reason I kept coming back here year after year is to have a feeling like that.”


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