The Grand National has officially been run since 1839 and, during that time, hundreds of jockeys from all over the UK have won it. However, when you scroll back through the history books, very few winning jockeys have been from London. In fact, based on the evidence we’ve seen, only one name stands out: Sam Waley-Cohen.
Born in Westminster (1982), Waley-Cohen is regarded as one of the Grand National’s most successful jockeys. He rode multiple winners during his time as an amateur National Hunt jockey and finished second in the 2011 Grand National on Oscar Time. He finally got his breakthrough in 2022 by winning the big race on Noble Yeats. That victory marked the end of his career in the saddle, which means he won’t be riding one of the leading contenders according to the latest Grand National tips 2023, where Corach Rambler and Noble Yeats are 6/1 and 8/1 respectively.
Winning the Toughest Race in Racing
There will, of course, be plenty of other jockeys willing to take his place on the winner’s podium, including 2021 winner Rachael Blackmore. However, with 40 runners lining up for the start, winning the Grand National isn’t easy. Indeed, it took London-born Waley-Cohen over a decade to do it after coming so close in 2011. That won’t stop people from trying or, indeed, people trying to pick a winner. Over 500 million people watch the Grand National and, in the UK alone, a Reuters report from 2021 shows that 33% of the adult population have a punt on the race.
This year, however, they won’t be betting on Waley-Cohen to go back-to-back. He hung up his riding boots in 2022 with a career record of 181 starts, 30 wins and 26 runner-up spots. Hurdles were his forte, riding over jumps a total of 161 times and winning 27 of those races – with the most notable win being the Grand National in 2022. However, his performances in the saddle aren’t the only thing Waley-Cohen will be remembered for. The Londoner was nominated for Spears Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 for his business, Portman Dental Care.
Rising to the Top of Two Industries
Waley-Cohen had been a trader at Louis Dreyfus Trading Ltd in London but moved into the dental industry. He founded Portman Dental Care in 2009. By 2011, his company had grown to eight dental practices in London and across the UK. That got him recognised as a shining light of British business at the same time he narrowly missed out on Grand National glory. Today, Waley-Cohen’s company, which now trades under Portman Healthcare, has over 200 dental practices across the UK, Ireland and Benelux region.
This network of practices has seen Portman Dental Care win Outstanding Business of the Year at the Dental Industry Awards four years in a row (2017 to 2020). To achieve success in one field is impressive, but to do it in two competitive industries is remarkable. Waley-Cohen has a place in London’s long list of icons thanks to his 2022 Grand National performance. However, he should also be lauded for his business ventures. So, for his success in sport and business, Londontopia salutes Sam Waley-Cohen.