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Sam Waley-Cohen to retire after Grand National

Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen has announced he will retire from the saddle after riding Noble Yeats in the Randox Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.

The 39-year-old became the first amateur in 30 years to win the blue riband when steering the Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run – owned by his father, Robert – to victory in 2011. He also twice won the King George VI Chase at Kempton aboard the same horse.

A dentist by trade, Waley-Cohen first struck gold at Cheltenham aboard Liberthine in the 2005 Mildmay Of Flete, a mare he also steered to win over the National fences in the Topham the following year.

Sam Waley-Cohen after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Long Run
Sam Waley-Cohen after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Long Run (David Davies/PA)

He won a second Topham almost a decade later aboard Rajdhani Express in 2005 and had high hopes of notching another success over the famous obstacles on Jett in Thursday’s Randox Foxhunters’ Chase – a race he won twice on Katarino (2005 and 2006) and once on Warne (2014).

But Waley-Cohen eventually pulled up the 5-2 favourite, after which he announced his ride on Noble Yeats in the world’s most famous steeplechase this weekend will be his last.

“I think that is my 40th time riding here but Saturday will be my last ride as I’m going to retire, hopefully, in the Grand National,” he told ITV Racing.

“I’ve had such an amazing time, I’m 40 this year and I couldn’t have imagined the days that I’ve had.

Katarino and Sam Waley-Cohen jumping the last in the 2006 Foxhunters'
Katarino and Sam Waley-Cohen jumping the last in the 2006 Foxhunters’ (Gareth Copley/PA)

“I’d love to do it at Aintree, a course that has been so special to me, and I just feel this is the right moment.

“It’s been great doing it with my dad, we’ve been a great partnership, and we actually gave this trophy (Foxhunters’) in memory of my brother so it would have been nice to win it but it wasn’t to be.”

Waley-Cohen has won a total of six races over the National fences – also landing the 2014 Becher Chase aboard Oscar Time, who he had guided to second place in the Grand National itself three years earlier.

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