A Grand National fairytale.
The best way to describe the result at Aintree in the National Hunt’s showpiece race last weekend. Elation for the Waley-Cohen family, with amateur jockey Sam ending his career on a high, aboard the 50/1 outsider Noble Yeats, and his father Robert, who only bought the seven-year-old in March from Paul Byrne.
The gelding had won his second chase, a first victory since the Beginners’ Chase at Galway last October. Not only that, but Waley-Cohen was an amateur jockey, and became the first amateur since Marcus Armytage, who won the National in 1990 (Mr Frisk).
While fans peruse the latest SkyBet horse racing betting markets, let’s take a look at Waley-Cohen’s three biggest wins.
- Grand National: Noble Yeats
In what proved to be another thrilling renewal of the Aintree centrepiece, there aren’t many better ways to celebrate your retirement than with victory. Waley-Cohen had announced the National would be his final race just two days earlier, and described the win as a “fantasy”, dedicating it to his brother Thomas, who passed away with cancer in 2004.
Lost for words, Waley-Cohen said after the race:
“It’s a dream. It won’t sink in for weeks – it feels like a fantasy, and I just don’t know what to say.”
The rank outsider, Noble Yeats, had been held up in the rear, before starting to track the leaders after the 23rd fence – on the second canal turn. The duo were under pressure from Any Second Now (Mark Walsh) and Delta Work (Jack Kennedy) with two fences to jump, but took the lead in the run-in and held on in the final 110 yards to win by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
Waley-Cohen is now the first amateur jockey to win both the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
- Cheltenham Gold Cup: Long Run
And it’s that victory we come to next. While Long Run was the pre-race favourite, his rivals included the previous three winners, including Kauto Star – who was looking to win the race for a third time – as well as Denman and Imperial Commander.
In winning the Cheltenham Festival’s stand-out race, Waley-Cohen became the first amateur jockey since Jim Wilson on Little Owl (6/1) managed the feat in 1981 – and more remarkably, Long Run was the first six-year-old to win the race since 1963, with no horse of the same age victorious since.
It hadn’t been plain-sailing for the favourite, who blundered several of the fences, and physically hit the 10th – and despite not riding fluently, held off the challenge of Denman to win the Gold Cup by seven lengths.
- King George VI Chase: Long Run
The King George VI Chase is vastly considered the second most prestigious Grade 1 chase in the UK, and Waley-Cohen was lucky enough to win it twice aboard Long Run. His first win in 2011 was the more memorable – not least because the race had been delayed from its usual spot on Boxing Day (2010), due to snow.
The favourite had been Kauto Star, looking to seek a record fifth-successive victory in the King George – but the Paul Nicholls-trained superstar had to settle for third place, and it was later revealed that he had run with a broken blood vessel. Long Run eventually beat stablemate and 10/1 chance Riverside Theatre by 12 lengths.
While he was then beaten by Kauto Star in the 2011 renewal of the race, he won it again in 2012 – this time as the favourite, beating Captain Chris by a neck.
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