Amateur jockey wins Grand National in retirement race

Apr 8, 2022, 9:43 PM | Updated: Apr 9, 2022, 10:30 am
Noble Yeats ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen who celebrates as he crosses the line to win the Grand Nation...

Noble Yeats ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen who celebrates as he crosses the line to win the Grand National horse race at Aintree, Liverpool, England, Saturday, April 9, 2022. The iconic Grand National race which is run over fences is 4 miles, 2 ½ furlongs has its origins in the 1839 Grand Liverpool Steeplechase .(AP Photo/Jon Super)

(AP Photo/Jon Super)

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen had quite the retirement ride on Saturday.

The 39-year-old Waley-Cohen marked his final race in the saddle by winning the world-famous Grand National horse race aboard a big outsider in 50-1 shot Noble Yeats.

“It’s a fairy tale, it’s a fantasy,” said Waley-Cohen, who runs a successful dentistry business and is a long-time friend of Prince William and Kate Middleton — even attending their wedding in 2011.

In a dramatic end to a race run before a crowd of around 70,000 spectators at Aintree, Noble Yeats reached the last of the 30 fences neck and neck with 15-2 favorite Any Second Now.

Noble Yeats pulled away on the long run to the finishing line on the 4 mile, 514 yards (6.9 kilometers) course and won by about three lengths.

Waley-Cohen was emotional as he returned to the winner’s enclosure one final time in his 23-year racing career, to the backdrop of cheers from racegoers. He spoke of his pride at winning Britain’s most storied horse race with the name of his late brother Thomas — who died of cancer in his 20s — on his saddle.

“You couldn’t make it up, could you?” he said.

The main storylines ahead of the first National staged with fans since 2019 revolved around two females in jockey Rachael Blackmore, who was looking to win it for a second straight year aboard Minella Times, and the horse Snow Leopardess, which was seeking to become the first mother to claim victory in the race — and first mare since 1951.

Minella Times fell at the ninth, though, and Snow Leopardess pulled up around two-thirds of the way around.

It was a record seventh win over the giant National fences for Waley-Cohen, including in the Becher Chase in 2014. That was on Oscar Time, with whom he finished second in the Grand National in 2011. He’d also finished fourth, fifth and eighth in the biggest race of the lot.

Waley-Cohen became the first amateur in 30 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in 2011 aboard Long Run — a horse owned by his father, Robert.

“For Sam to go out on a win like this, you could not write it,” said Emmet Mullins, the trainer of Noble Yeats.

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Amateur jockey wins Grand National in retirement race