Gentleman Amateur

The Observer has an interview with amateur jockey extraordinaire, Sam Waley-Cohen:

Not many Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockeys will tell you: “There is a real conflict between what the NHS aspires to deliver across the board in healthcare and what it can afford to deliver.” But then not many are close friends of William and Kate, run their own chain of dental practices or ride the best steeplechaser in the country – for fun.

Sam Waley-Cohen is the last Corinthian: a happy amateur in a world of famished, bird-framed hard men who throw themselves at obstacles on sometimes clumsy horses for a living. Unlike Tony “AP” McCoy, the indomitable dark-eyed champion of the winter game, Waley-Cohen rides his father’s majestic champion, Long Run, as a hobby. But this year he proved that he was no longer a novelty act, sharing a weighing room with hardened pros.

In January, he won jump racing’s second-most prestigious event, the King George VI Chase, beating a field that included Kauto Star, one of the most successful racehorses of all time. Then, in March, Waley-Cohen became the first amateur for 30 years to win the Gold Cup, jump racing’s grandest race. His success thrust him to the forefront of a sport increasingly desperate for publicity. With his father’s horse at the head of his breed, the one-off challenge of trying to win at the National Hunt Festival has assumed a new dimension. Waley-Cohen, 29, put Long Run in front. But now he has to keep him there.

Yesterday Long Run was toppled and Kauto had his revenge in the Betfair Chase. Kauto Star’s connections were worried – after all this horse “should have been retired” according to the Guardian – they even photographed him in the paddock in case it was his last run. But he led all the way and came home eight lengths in front. Rematch in Cheltenham, Mr Waley-Cohen?

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