"I do think Thomas is sitting on my back. I ride with his name on my saddle." - A true Aintree fairytale 5 months ago

"I do think Thomas is sitting on my back. I ride with his name on my saddle." - A true Aintree fairytale

Sam Waley-Cohen announced on Friday morning that, after a marvellous career, he was going to retire on Saturday.

Win, lose or fall, he was going to retire after riding his father's horse, Noble Yeats, in the Aintree Grand National.  They say that, in sport, fairytales don't come true but if this wasn't a fairytale then we've never seen one before.

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Because when Noble Yeats stormed around the famous Aintree elbow, when he kept Ted Walsh's fancied Any Second Now at arms' length and when he passed the finish line in first, as an Aintree Grand National winner, there was a smell of something special in the Liverpool air.

Waley-Cohen has had so much success in this course in the past, winning no fewer than seven times over the national fences but nothing beats the big one. And he bowed out with his biggest win of all.

That's saying something because, despite being an amateur jockey, despite employing over one thousand people in his practice as a dentist, Waley-Cohen has had some success in this game. You'll remember 2011, when aboard Nicky Henderson's Long Run, he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He's won King George's and Topham Chase's too but nothing beats this one.

This was his last ever ride and afterwards, the 39-year-0ld was overjoyed. He dedicated it to his long lost brother Thomas who, in his 20s, died from bone cancer back in 2004. Thomas has been a huge inspiration not just in Sam's career but in the whole family's interest in the sport.

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"It's been a love affair. They aren't all good days. There are bad days in this sport. But this is a fairytale. It's a fantasy. I'm full of love, happiness and gratefulness. I do think Thomas is sitting on my back. I ride with his name on my saddle.

Watching on, his father Robert could barely speak.

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"It's absolutely a dream come true. I can't speak," he said on Virgin Media Sport.

"It was a long term plan in the end. It's come off in the end, I don't know how," added winning Irish trainer Emmett Mullins.

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