AINTREE, England // Leighton Aspell became the first jockey for 61 years to win the Grand National on different horses in successive years as he powered Many Clouds to victory on Saturday the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Aspell, winner on Pineau De Re last year, rode another magnificent race on the Oliver Sherwood-trained horse to win ahead of runner-up Saint Are and third-placed Monbeg Dude in the 168th running of the race.
Aspell, 38, emulated the achievement of Bryan Marshall, who earned victories in the 1953 National on Early Mist and 1954 on Royal Tan.
Brian Fletcher achieved the feat on the same horse, Red Rum, in 1973/74.
It was also a record-equalling third Grand National triumph for Many Clouds's owner Trevor Hemmings. There was, though, to be no fairy-tale farewell to the race for 19-times champion jockey Tony McCoy, who had promised to retire on the spot, instead of at the season's end, if he won on Shutthefrontdoor.
Instead, despite a fine effort in which Shutthefrontdoor make a concerted bid for victory, he eventually faded to fifth off the final fence.
Aspell, who chose to ride Many Clouds in place of last year’s unplaced winner Pineau De Re, who finished 12th, said: “Wonderful. We’ll certainly celebrate tonight.
“I asked him big questions and he certainly responded. He’s all heart. I was hoping his battery would last and it did.”
Sherwood cut a distinctly modest figure in the winner’s enclosure, reflecting on his eight-year-old charge’s return to top form after a poor run in the Gold Cup last month.
“The horse has been unbelievable, blossoming all season,” he said.” I don’t know what happened in the Gold Cup, he got out of the wrong side of the bed that morning. I’ve never showed him a fence at the National on purpose. But what do I know about horses.”
Hemmings, owner of the English football club Preston North End, welcomed home his third National winner after Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs.
He paid tribute to Aspell, saying: “Achievers are normally quiet, confident and experienced, and he’s got all three. You come to the National and you dream that you win it. When a third comes along, that is something special. It is a wonderful, wonderful feeling.
“For years and years this race has captured my heart. What a wonderful feeling, you can’t express it.” Last year’s runner-up Balthazar King made it only as far as a crashing fall at the Canal Turn on the first circuit.
The signs were ominous for the horse’s welfare as the veterinary screens went up around him and the fence missed out on the second circuit, a statement from the racecourse later reporting that he was “up standing and under assessment”.
One of the main hard-luck stories in the 2015 edition of the race first run in 1839 concerned The Druid’s Nephew, who was going as well as anything in front only to hit the deck five fences out.
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