Things you may not know about Sam Waley-Cohen

Amateur jumps jockey Sam Waley-Cohen shot to stardom in just a few minutes at Aintree on Saturday as he and Noble Yeats (50-1) fought off the 15/2 favourite Any Second Now for a famous Grand National success.

This was the last ride of his career and he went out in a blaze of colour and glory in front of a sell-out crowd and 7.5-million worldwide viewers. Plenty has been said and written about Sam in the last 48 hours and if you enjoyed this amazing thrill on Saturday, you would have seen some of the tributes to the 39-year-old by now. But if you haven’t, here are some fascinating things about Sam you may not have known:

-Horseracing has been no more than a ‘weekend hobby’ for him, for 30 years.

-One of his earliest memories is of trying to ride the Grand National on the rocking horse he had at home. “I knew a few of the horses’ names and remembered them while I rode my own wooden horse and imagined I was in the race,” he said.

– Sam became the first amateur in 30 years to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup when steering the Nicky Henderson-trained Long Run – owned by his father – to victory in 2011. He also twice won the King George VI Chase at Kempton aboard the same horse.

Sam’s a spirited man who lives each day to the full.

– He had come close to winning the Grand National before, placing on three occasions, most notably when second on Oscar Time in 2011. With his 40th birthday looming next Friday, he decided Aintree would be the perfect place to close the book on his riding career.

– Despite the race being worth £1 million in total prize money and the winning jockey usually receiving around £50,000, Waley-Cohen receives nothing as an amateur. “I don’t get a share of the prize money as an amateur rider but I think a good chunk of it goes to the Amateur Jockeys Association,” he said.

-He was rated the best jockey over jumps at Aintree by Timeform in 2015 – and their assessment included professional riders!

-One day in 2008m, driving to a racecourse, Sam saw a lone dental practice on the side of the road and wondered by there weren’t any dental chains around.  When later he heard from disillusioned fellow jockeys and other friends of bad experiences under the dentist’s drill, he decided to make work of it and in 2009 founded Portman Dentalcare, now a GBP300-million business with over 200 practices in five countries.

-To stay in shape, he runs the seven miles from his home to the London offices of Portman a few times a week.

-He is credited as playing a key role in getting Prince William and Kate Middleton back together after a brief separation earlier in their relationship.

– Sam’s brother Thomas was treated for cancer before he died in 2004 and a ward is named in his memory. Sam rode with Thomas’ name on his saddle. He noted: “I think when you lose somebody you love and you lose them when you’re young, you realise to make the most of life and to appreciate it and to try and approach things with an open heart and a lot of spirit.”

He said about his great record at Aintree: You need a lot of luck (over these fences), and you need to be on the right horses, and I think, relatively, I’ve ridden these fences a lot more than some of the other jockeys, and experience does help. Honestly, I think it’s luck. If you are on the right horse, and things go right for you, or don’t go wrong for you.”

-Sam offered his winning mount Noble Yeats a sip of his pint of Guinness during Sunday’s victory parade at Leighlinbridge

-Sam ‘s son Max (11) has set his sights on a career as a flat jockey.

Sam’s life’s philosophy: “I just try to put a lot of energy into every day because you don’t know if it’s going to be your last day or whatever it is. It’s definitely made me want to make the most of the opportunities and thanks to that I’ve had incredible opportunities and tried to make the most of the ones that I’ve had presented.”  -IRC.

Sources consulted: Daily Record, Sporting Life, Racing TV.

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