Jewish jockey’s fairytale Grand National triumph

Sam Waley-Cohen took first place at Aintree in the final race of his career


LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 09: Winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen celebrates with the Grand National Trophy after riding Noble Yeats to victory in the Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree Racecourse on April 9, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Jewish jockey Sam Waley-Cohen has won the Grand National on 50/1 shot Noble Yeats in a fairytale ending to his career.

The amateur rider had declared before the race that he would be retiring whatever the outcome.

And having piloted Noble Yeats to victory in a thrilling finish to the Aintree classic, the emotional rider said it was “a fantasy. [I’m] just full of love, happiness and gratefulness.”

He also paid tribute to his brother Thomas who died of cancer aged 20, in 2004, and whose initials are on his saddle.

"It's a dream,” the jockey told ITV. “I couldn't believe it. I’ve got to say thank yous, because it’s my last ever ride. To dad [Robert, owner of Noble Yeats], unwavering belief and love. 

"Over 23 years, never a cross word, nothing but a dream, it's been a love affair. To my wife, long-suffering. They aren’t all good days in this sport and she’s always there to support me.”

Noble Yeats started the race towards the back of the pack but gradually moved through the field.

After clearing the final fence, Waley-Cohen held off the challenge of race favourite Any Second Now.

His is the first National win for an amateur jockey since 1990. His amateur status means he is unable to take home a share of the National’s £1 million prize pot. But that is unlikely to trouble the founder of Portman Dental Care, which has over 160 practices and has expanded across Europe.

Robert Waley-Cohen, who bought Noble Yeats just two months ago, told the BBC: "It's the dream come true, I can't speak - it's just fabulous… I feel like quoting Shakespeare - my cup runneth over. I'm really emotional."

Sam Waley-Cohen has come close to National Glory before, finishing second in 2011 on Oscar Time, and fourth on the same horse in 2013.

Discussing the Grand National on CNN in 2014, he said: "Sometimes I watch the pros in the races and wonder how I can compete with them.

"They're the best in the world, the best people that have ever ridden. It's such a buzz to line up alongside them.”

The inspiration behind the dentistry business he founded in 2009 was rumoured to be the woeful state of his fellow jockeys' teeth.

He is the grandson of a baronet, Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen, who was Lord Mayor of London and a director of the Palestine Corporation, set up to promote economic development under the British mandate.

Sir Bernard’s father, Sir Robert Waley Cohen, was a director of the United Synagogue who appeared in the Nazi “black book”: a list of prominent Britons to be arrested were the UK to be invaded.

Sam Waley-Cohen is a friend of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who sent “huge congratulations” after his Aintree triumph.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive