Grand National Review 2022: 50/1 Noble Yeats Gives Amateur Sam Fairytale Ending

Sam Waley-CohenThe 50/1 shot Noble Yeats provided a perfect conclusion to the Corinthian jockey Sam Waley-Cohen’s riding career when he stayed on to win the 2022 Grand National on April 9. He was the only amateur in the race and became the first to win it since Marcus Armytage triumphed in 1990.

Before the race Waley-Cohen announced that it would be his final ride. Soon to hit 40, he is a successful businessman, married with young children. He had promised his family he would retire from race riding if he won it and had dreamt of winning the National since he was a child on a rocking horse.

That dream was not unrealistic. In 2011 Waley-Cohen won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Long Run who also provided him with two King George victories. His record over the National fences surpassed that of any professional jockey. He had six wins over them and had come close in the National before on more fancied horses. Noble Yeats’ starting price suggested he was thought more likely to provide an enjoyable final spin over his favourite obstacles than a victory.

He was purchased by the Waley-Cohen family from Paul Byrne after he finished second in the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby in February. He went through the Tattersalls sales ring unsold at 290,000 guineas, so did not come cheap. He was wisely left with his young Irish trainer, Emmet Mullins. He had never saddled a Grand National runner before but this seven-year-old outstayed the 15/2 favourite, Any Second Now, to win by two and a quarter lengths.

No horse of that age has won the National since the 1940s, very few have taken part. The ultra-shrewd Mullins does things differently but also uses old tricks. He put cheekpieces on Noble Yeats for the first time, an established tactic when trying to encourage an extra effort when it matters most.

Mullins denied his veteran countryman, Ted Walsh, a long-awaited second National victory. Walsh successfully saddled Papillon, partnered by his now-retired son Ruby, in 2000. He has always looked out for potential Grand National types and has come agonisingly close to repeating the feat a number of times since. Owned and bred by JP McManus, Any Second Now was the most obvious hard luck story of the 2021 National, not beaten far into third after encountering serious trouble in running and making a massive mistake at the tenth.

The front pair finished 20 lengths clear of Gordon Elliott’s strongly fancied Cheltenham Festival Cross Country race and multiple grade one winner, Delta Work. He started at 10/1 partnered by Jack Kennedy in the maroon and white silks of Gigginstown that were carried to victory for Elliott twice by Tiger Roll. It was Silver Birch, Elliott’s 33/1 2007 Grand National winner, that helped accelerate his career. He invested in innovative stem cell veterinary treatment, much to the chagrin of top UK trainer Paul Nicholls who had been advised to let Silver Birch go by his vets and had not won the Grand National at the time.

Santini (33/1) finished a length behind Delta Work in fourth under Nick Schofield in the grey Kelvin-Hughes colours. The mercurial Santini has been reinvigorated by a move from Nicky Henderson to Polly Gundry. He was the first horse trained in England to get home and was followed by another, Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof (12/1).

The next four horses were all trained in Ireland. Martin Brassil’s Longhouse Poet (12/1) was sixth, Dermot McLoughlin’s 150/1 2021 Irish Grand National winner (also in first time cheekpieces) Freewheelin Dylan (50/1) finished 19 lengths behind him in seventh, more than 50 lengths behind the winner. Elliott’s Coko Beach (50/1) and Escaria Ten (25/1) finished behind him in that order.

What happened in the race?

The field were sent off first time and it was a fairly even break. Every horse cleared the first fence but Conor Orr parted company with Enjoy D’allen (20/1) when he stumbled badly on landing and Denis O’Regan endured a similar fate when Mount Ida (66/1) not only jumped violently to the right but clouted it. Two For Gold (33/1) took the lead early and loosened the birch at the second without losing momentum.

Eclair Surf (14/1) fell at the third, bringing down Anibale Fly (80/1). The grey Coko Beach (50/1) narrowly took the lead after the fourth. Longhouse Poet (12/1) was not far behind him on the inside. There were no casualties at Bechers but the strongly fancied Run Wild Fred (8/1) fell at the Canal Turn. Jordan Gainsford was unseated from Death Duty (33/1) as was Adam Wedge from De Rasher Counter (80/1).

Minella Times’ (9/1) bid for a second National victory ended at Valentine’s under Rachael Blackmore when he was hampered by School Boy Hours (33/1) and came down. Agusta Gold (66/1) hit the deck at the 10th whilst Coko Beach retained his lead, closely pursued by Two For Gold, Longhouse Poet and Lostintranslation (50/1).

The Chair ended the hopes of Burrows Saint (33/1) who blundered badly and unshipped Paul Townend, Kildisart (40/1) and Domain De L’Isle (125/1) also lost their jockeys. Noble Yeats got his first mention from the commentators after the water jump as Waley-Cohen had nursed him into the race, finding space for him on the inside just behind the leaders. Santini was not far behind him. Freewheelin Dylan was closer to the lead.

Ryan Mania was unseated from Dingo Dollar (25/1) at the second Canal Turn and Fortescue (28/1) unshipped Hugh Nugent four fences from home. Three out Noble Yeats was only a length off the lead, at the next he took it, flanked by Longhouse Poet and Freewheelin Dylan. Delta Work was in the leading line of five as Blaklion (50/1) and Any Second Now had appeared from nowhere.

Any Second Now took the lead after the last but Noble Yeats headed him as they approached the elbow and increased his advantage towards the line under a vigorous drive. Commentator Richard Hoiles was aware of Waley-Cohen’s retirement and almost shouted “What a way to go out!”