The 39-year-old announced his intention to retire on Thursday, nominating Emmet Mullins’ charge as his farewell ride in the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Sent off at 50-1, few would have expected Noble Yeats to strike in the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile showpiece, but he ran a magnificent race as he fended off the 15-2 favourite Any Second Now for a famous National success.
Coming to the last they were the only pair in contention and under a strong drive, Noble Yeats kept finding more to prevail in the colours of Waley-Cohen’s father, Robert.
Delta Work (10-1) was third with Santini (33-1) in fourth.
Talking to ITV Racing, Waley-Cohen said: “It’s a dream. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve got to say thank you, as it’s my last ever ride, to my dad (Robert Waley-Cohen, owner), for unwavering belief and love.
“Over 23 years and never a cross word, never been anything but a dream. It’s been a love affair.
"To my wife, long-suffering, they aren’t all good days, there are bad days in this sport.
“It’s a fairytale, a fantasy. There’s a lot of love and gratefulness,” Waley-Cohen continued.
“It’s getting on the right horses and getting the luck.
“You couldn’t make it up, could you?”
Trainer Emmett Mullins said: “It was a long-term plan and it seems to have come off in the end somehow, I don’t know how!
“We were probably more confident a month ago. The closer we got to it, everyone else seemed to be talking up their chances and we went cold.
“The form behind Ahoy Senor, a Grade One winner yesterday, that was a great run at Wetherby and the performance there (gave us confidence).”
A proud Waley-Cohen senior added: “It’s a dream come true. I can’t speak, I shouted too much!
“You can’t go round without the horse but the horse can’t get round without the jockey.
“Sam used to ride the National on his rocking horse, that’s how far back it goes!”
Ted Walsh, trainer of the runner-up Any Second Now, said: “To get that close, it’s a sickener, but equally it’s a great for the Cohen family, and seeing the father going down the track to meet his son in tears.
“Mark (Walsh, jockey) said he missed the break but that he jumped and travelled well.
“I thought jumping the last he might get there, but the other horse has outstayed us from the elbow.
“I’ve seen a lot happen from the elbow including Crisp getting caught by Red Rum.
“Unfortunately for us the post is another 100 yards away, and that’s where you get paid."
Gordon Elliott, trainer of the third-placed Delta Work, said: “I thought he was a bit novicey but then he crept into it.
“We were close enough if good enough and I was very happy with his third finish.”