Betting on the outsider

Richard with his grandkids watching the Grand National
Virgin Galactic
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Published on 11 April 2022

I was definitely born under a lucky star. I’ve only bet on horse racing twice in my life.

The first time was at the Kentucky Derby in 2005, which was the first racing meet I’d ever attended. I ran into Jerry Moss, an old friend from the music business who co-founded A&M Records with Herb Albert. I asked him if he was still in the industry, and he explained he now bred horses. He had entered his first horse in the race – Giacomo. But it was a 100-1 outsider, so he didn’t recommend betting on it.

A few minutes later, reporters from CNN and ESPN spotted me and I agreed to a live interview. When they asked for my tip, I said Giacomo, as it was the only horse I knew. The experts laughed at my outsider suggestion, but everyone around my stand had a flutter on it. Lo and behold, the 100-1 outsider won the race – winning Jerry the largest ever first-place purse from the Kentucky Derby. The reporters came rushing back with one question: how did I know Giacomo was going to win?! Beginner’s luck, I guess.

Fast forward to this weekend's Grand National, where our close family friend Sam Waley-Cohen was riding in his final ever race. He is a 39-year-old amateur jockey and successful entrepreneur, who decided to have one last go at achieving his lifelong dream of winning the Grand National. His horse, Noble Yeats, was a 50-1 outsider bought by his father Robert just two months ago.

We had a roomful of friends and family cheering him on Necker. The grandkids were so excited as I pointed at the screen showing him move up from 20th all the way to the front. Unbelievably, he won the race. As Holly said: “I’ve never shouted at the TV more, and never cried so much with a sporting result.”

It was an emotional moment, not least as Sam paid tribute to his delightful younger brother Thomas, who sadly died of bone cancer aged 20. As my son wrote: “Tom was also an incredibly special young man and I know that he’ll be thought about dearly as the family celebrate this accomplishment.” Congratulations Sam and all the family.

Sam has now retired from racing horses. I'm now planning to retire from betting on horses!