Grand National contender Sam Waley-Cohen is the most successful amateur jockey of all-time, but he tells TV Times magazine why he won’t go pro…
How are you coping with the endless training, fanatical dieting and media scrutiny before the Grand National this weekend?
“I’m mostly just working! I have a slightly unusual preparation in that I am running a full-time business [Sam owns a chain of dental practices] that has to keep going.”
How do you feel before the race?
“It’s about trying to get to the race with confidence, feeling you’re riding well, feeling the horse is running well and that you’ve left no stone unturned in terms of making sure you’ve got the best chance you can to win the race.”
In 2011, you became the first amateur jockey to win the Chelntenham Gold Cup in 30 years. Why don’t you want to turn professional?
“For me it’s a passion. The moment you change it to put food on the table, it’s not a passion in the same way any more. I’m lucky I have another way of making a living.”
What do you think is in store for this year’s Grand National?
“I think it’s a very interesting race this year. Everyone will be getting excited about Monbeg Dude with Mike Tindall’s ownership of it. And the horse that will pull on the heartstrings of lots of people is Tidal Bay – he’s getting towards the end of his career, but has been so versatile and he’s got to carry a top weight, so that will be an incredible feat if he can win it.”
You are riding Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run over the famous fences…
“For me it’s all about Long Run, who has been part of our lives for six years and given us such great days out. It’s a total privilege to ride him in the Grand National.”
What do you think about the controversy surrounding the race?
“I think there are some very legitimate concerns. One of the things about the National – and horse racing in general – is the lengths that everyone goes to to make sure that horse welfare is at the absolute forefront. The veterinary support there is fantastic, absolutely world beating. Like all sporting events, there are some risks and you need to make sure you control those to a greater extent so you aren’t exposing anyone to undue danger.”
Watch the Grand National on Channel 4 on Saturday, Apil 5.