Sam Waley-Cohen will bid to become the first amateur jockey to ride the winner of the John Smith’s Grand National in over 20 years when he partners Oscar Time at Aintree tomorrow.
Not since Marcus Armytage won in record time on Mr Frisk in 1990 has a rider from the Corinthian ranks claimed glory in the world’s greatest steeplechase.
Should he do it, Waley-Cohen’s feat will be even more extraordinary as he has already won the Gold Cup this season on Long Run, owned by his father, Robert.
The Martin Lynch-trained Oscar Time, also running in the colours of his father, has solid credentials, finishing second in last year’s Irish Grand National and third last time out to National favourite The Midnight Club.
Waley-Cohen said: “It’s been a pretty extraordinary few months and something just to enjoy and relish.
“The Gold Cup seems to have touched a few people, who have written to me saying how much they enjoyed it. There was a wave of goodwill.
“Coming into a race like this, you just want to enjoy it, especially when you are on a horse that you believe in.
“To me you want a horse that can be ultra-consistent and hasn’t got a string of pulled-ups and falls in its history.
“You also want a horse that can travel and jump with real enthusiasm in a big field and he showed that in the Irish National and the Paddy Power.
“I’ve ridden him three times this season and everyone connected with the horse feels that he is now in the form of his life coming into this race.
“He has all the right attributes to be a Grand National horse and, perhaps most significantly, he has a whole load of courage, which often makes all the difference in a contest like this.
“His whole season has been about his preparation for here. We were delighted with how he ran in the Bobbyjo, he showed he was exuberant and very genuine, everything we wanted.”
The National is famed for its fairytale outcomes and the Oscar Time story fits the bill on a number of fronts.
Waley-Cohen said: “It’s a man and horse story with Martin and Oscar Time. He only has 10 or 11 horses and bought him as an unbroken store and has all but slept in the same box for the last five years.
“He’s absolutely his pride and joy.”