Amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen enjoyed a fairytale finale to his career as steered Noble Yeats to victory in the Grand National at Aintree.
The 39-year-old announced his intention to retire on Thursday, nominating Emmet Mullins’ charge as his farewell ride in the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Sent off at 50-1, few would have expected Noble Yeats to strike in the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile showpiece – but he ran a magnificent race as he fended off the 15-2 favourite Any Second Now for a famous National success.
Coming to the last they were the only pair in contention and under a strong drive, Noble Yeats kept finding more to prevail in the colours of Waley-Cohen’s father, Robert. Delta Work (10-1) was third with Santini (33-1) in fourth.
A jubilant Waley-Cohen – who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Long Run in 2011 – said: “He ran for me, he couldn’t go the early pace and I just tried to find pockets to give him a bit of space to run into. I found myself on the inner and was going more forward than I wanted to.
“He loves seeing his fences, so I kept trying to find a spot where he could see them. When I asked him he came, but if I just half-asked him he wasn’t confident, so I was trying to sit against him – he likes the bit in his mouth and your legs against him.
“I was just trying to get him in that nice rhythm and as soon as I asked him, he went.
“I thought I’d gone too early (at the last). I really didn’t want to get there then, but as soon as he picked up I thought ‘he’s gone, he’s got this’.
“Dad has always supported me unwaveringly, we’ve never had a cross word, it’s always been for fun. It’s been a love affair. To my wife, long-suffering, they aren’t all good days, there are bad days in this sport.
“We came here thinking the sun’s out, it’s your last ride – go and have a nice spin, no expectations. Just enjoy it.
“It’s a dream. I couldn’t believe it.”