I’m flying the flag for all Jews, says Grand National champion Sam Waley-Cohen

The jockey who stunned the country with victory at Aintree speaks to the JC


LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Sam Waley-Cohen riding Noble Yeats win The Randox Grand National Handicap Steeple Chase at Aintree Racecourse on April 09, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Grand National winner Sam Waley-Cohen has spoken of his pride at being able to “fly the flag for all Jews” in an exclusive interview with the JC.

Speaking just days after his historic victory, he also revealed how he had gone back to his work running a chain of dentists almost straight away — and spoke of how he had felt the presence of his late brother at the finish.

The Jewish jockey stunned Britain on Saturday with his win on 50-1 outsider Noble Yeats in the final race of his career.

He said he was proud to have been part of the horse racing world because “it’s a level playing field without prejudice to anyone’s race, sex or religion”.

He said: “There’s no negative context in terms of our differences. Racing accepts everyone and makes us all feel welcome.

“I’m so grateful to the sport for the opportunity it has given me to fly the flag for all Jews.

“I have a long Jewish family heritage and it makes me so proud to have won for all of them too.”

Mr Waley-Cohen regularly attends West London Synagogue with his wife Annabel and their three children. He said his win had still “not sunk in”.

He added: “I went for a walk with my wife yesterday and we both said it still feels like a dream. She looked at me and said, ‘Are we going to wake up in a minute and discover it was all a dream?’ I think it’s going to take a long time before we accept it really happened.”

The jockey, whose brother Thomas tragically died of a rare form of bone cancer aged 20, in 2004, told the JC he felt his sibling’s presence as he sped to victory at Aintree. Mr Waley-Cohen, who has Thomas’s initials carved into his leather saddle, said: “Thomas was there in the saddle with me all the way, I’m sure of it. So many friends have said the same thing. I’m certain he was riding with me for that race.”

The Grand National will be his final race, he said. “There will be no more racing. It is a sport where you have to be all in or all out, and it’s time for me to do other things now. You can’t play around at the edge of it. I’ve loved every minute of it but it’s time to move on to other things now. It has been a great way to finish.”

Those “other things” include his dental chain Portman, which has been valued at £300 million. He spent Tuesday at a Portman Dentalcare event in Manchester, just 24 hours after attending a victory parade in Ireland. After Saturday’s victory, he said he stayed at Aintree “for a few drinks” with his family before driving home to Banbury.

“We got stuck in traffic for two hours,” he said. “Luckily we had plenty to talk about.”

Mr Waley-Cohen offered a message to young Jews with ambitions to one day become jockeys: “Go for it. Believe it’s possible to one day win the Grand National and it just may happen. Pursue your dreams.”

The champion, who turns 40 today, may be one of very few Jewish jockeys He said: “I certainly don’t know of any other Jewish riders out there.”

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