The Randox Grand National result for the 2022 renewal of the race provided a fairytale ending for amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, as he passed the winning post first aboard Noble Yeats. He announced earlier in the week that he was going to retire after his ride in the Grand National today (9 April).
“I can’t say anything – it’s a dream. I couldn’t believe it,” said Sam, 39, after the race. “I’ve got to say thank yous as it’s my last ride. First of all to dad for his unwavering belief and love over the past 23 years – we’ve never a cross word and have just worked great as a team. To my long-suffering wife, who always there to support me. It’s a fairytale – I’m full of love, happiness and gratefulness.”
Noble Yeats is just a seven-year-old and only ran over fences under Rules for the first time on 5 October 2021. He is owned by Sam’s father Robert Waley-Cohen, who Sam has ridden for during the entirety of his career. Noble Yeats, who is trained by young Irishman, Emmet Mullins and for who this was a first Grand National runner, went off a 50/1 shot.
“We were confident in this horse’s chance in the National all year until the past month as I’ve had a bit of a cold four weeks [in terms of horses running to form], which isn’t the horse’s fault and he was going fine at home, but I maybe started to doubt it was going to happen a little bit,” said Emmet. “The Grand National was always the long-term plan for Noble Yeats, and it’s great to be able to win it for the Waley-Cohens.”
It was an emotional win for the Waley-Cohen family, particularly as Sam’s brother, Thomas died in 2004 after living with cancer for 10 years.
“Thomas was riding with me today – his name is on my saddle,” said Sam, who has a remarkable record over the Grand National fences, having won over them – although not in the Grand National itself – six times, making him the most successful jockey to ride over the unique Aintree fences. “I’ve been saying for at least a decade, that I’ll retire on the spot if I win the Grand National, so for it to happen when I announced it earlier in the week is amazing.”
Robert Waley-Cohen was visibly emotional saying: “It’s absolutely a dream come true. I can’t speak, it’s just fabulous and what we’ve dreamed about – Sam used to ride a rocking horse when he was small, dreaming he was winning the Grand National, and here we are now.”
Sam’s illustrious career in the saddle includes four Cheltenham Festival victories, including Long Run’s epic 2011 Gold Cup success, where he beat Kauto Star, becoming the first amateur jockey in 30 years to win the race. In the 2012 and 2013 runnings of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, they also finished third to Synchronised and Bobs Worth respectively, and they also won the 2010 and 2012 King George VI Chase at Kempton.
When not race-riding, Sam has worked hard building up his own dental care business since its inception in 2009. His business activities led to his being nominated as Spears young entrepreneur of the year in 2011, and by 2020, his business had grown to over 160 practices and expanded to operate across Europe. He is married to Annabel and has three young children.
Continuing with the Grand National result, Any Second Now, who went off the 15/2 favourite, finished second under Mark Walsh for trainer Ted Walsh, which was an agonising result given that this horse finished third last year.
Delta Work was third under Jack Kennedy for trainer Gordon Elliott, while Santini was fourth under Nick Scholfield for trainer Polly Gundry.
Read the full Grand National report in the 14 April issue of Horse & Hound magazine.
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