“No opt-out will ever be this complete,” Brough Scott said The Sunday Times, as just achieved the winner of this Grand National. This was Sam Waley-Cohen’s very last horse race. The 39-year-old jockey, the only amateur in a 40-strong field, will retire from the sport to focus on his chain of upscale dental practices. And the horse he rode, Noble Yeats, was a 50-1 shot that belonged to his father, Robert. So it was no exaggeration for Waley-Cohen to describe his first – and probably last – win at the greatest jump racing event as “a fairy tale, a fantasy”. His success single-handedly revived the almost extinct spirit of sporting amateurism. This was a truly grueling race with “more than its usual share of carnage” – by the end 25 of the runners had stood up or fallen, with two suffering fatal injuries – but Waley-Cohen on Noble Yeats fought through to the end, the “hardened Pro” beating Mark Walsh for second place on Any Second Now.
Adding the Grand National to previous Gold Cup and King George VI Chase victories means Waley-Cohen can claim to be the most successful amateur jockey of all time, Waley-Cohen said The Sunday Telegraph‘s Marcus Armytage – himself the last amateur to win the Grand National 32 years ago. But maybe the win shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise — after all, Waley-Cohen finished second at Oscar Time in 2011. This time, Noble Yeats produced “a dream ride” for its owner’s son; Staying behind early leaders Coko Beach and Two For Gold, the seven-year-old freshman stayed on top all the way until the race at the penultimate fence turned into a straight shoot-out with 15-2 favorite Any Now second. “They jumped in unison last,” Armytage said, “and were locked together for the long run” before the younger of the two horses started to back off and eventually won by two and a half lengths.
Outside of racing, Waley-Cohen is known for being the man who helped Prince William and Kate Middleton get back together after a temporary split in 2007, the man said Sunday Express. And the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were among the first to tweet congratulations to their boyfriend. There were also tributes to Thomas, Waley-Cohen’s brother, who died of bone cancer at the age of 20. “I think Thomas is on my back,” said the jockey; He had his brother’s name sewn into his saddle, while his father Robert wore a bracelet with Thomas’s initials woven into it. This incredible family’s story “will surely be told on screen one day,” said Phil Thomas in The sun. And if so, Waley-Cohen seems very keen on being played by actor Dominic West.
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/sport/horse-racing/956433/sam-waley-cohen-profile-grand-national Sam Waley-Cohen: “a fairy tale, a fantasy” at the Grand National