Amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen bowed out from the saddle in perfect fashion with victory in the Randox Grand National aboard 50/1 outsider Noble Yeats, for his father Robert. Trained by Emmet Mullins, the seven-year-old held off 15/2 favourite Any Second Now, with Delta Work third and Santini fourth.
The 39-year-old announced his intention to retire on Thursday, nominating young Irish trainer 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 in front of a sell-out crowd of 70,000 people. 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. Reigning champion Minella Times, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, fell at the 10th fence. "It was a long-term plan and it seems to have come off in the end somehow," Mullins told ITV after Noble Yeats came home in first place. "I don't know-how. We were probably more confident a month ago but the closer we got to it, everyone else seemed to be talking up their chances and we just went cold. The horse didn’t know any different."
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."
Ted Walsh, trainer of the runner-up Any Second Now, said: "To get that close, it's a sickener, but equally it’s a great for the Cohen family, and seeing the father going down the track to meet his son in tears."Mark (Walsh, jockey) said he missed the break but that he jumped and travelled well."I thought jumping the last he might get there, but the other horse has outstayed us from the elbow."I’ve seen a lot happen from the elbow including Crisp getting caught by Red Rum."Unfortunately for us the post is another 100 yards away, and that’s where you get paid."Gordon Elliott, trainer of the third-placed Delta Work, said: "I thought he was a bit novicey but then he crept into it."We were close enough if good enough and I was very happy with his third finish."
The race was a difficult watch in my view for those who love the sport. I really feel the modifications have made the race a much quicker race. Two horses were lost which is very sad for all connected with them. The horses are flicking through the fences. I really think a stuffed hurdle within 100 yards to make them jump almost immediately and not allow momentum to build on the run to the first. I think the time of the National at 515 is just wrong. The crowd are heavily drunk and drug intoxicated in many cases. The start should be moved away from where it is the crowd are too close to it and the 40 horses and jockeys are running the gauntlet. I would be concerned about the direction the race is heading right now. We have to really work as a sport to retain the brilliant race that is The Grand National.