Leighton Aspell

Leighton Aspell Many of the best National Hunt jockeys of the modern era, including Jonjo O’Neill, John Francome, Peter Scudamore and even Richard Johnson – who’s ridden more winners than anyone else in the history of the sport, apart from Sir Anthony Peter “A.P.” McCoy – have failed to win the Grand National. Not so Leighton Aspell who, unlike those illustrious names, will never be champion jockey, but has won the National not just once, but twice.

 

Aspell first rode in the National, at the age of 27, in 2003 and later admitted that he was “thrilled to bits” to finish second on 40/1 outsider Supreme Glory, 12 lengths behind the winner, Monty’s Pass. He came a cropper at Becher’s Brook, the Chair and Valentine’s Brook in 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively and, when he pulled up Billyvoddan, who was tailed off at the time, approaching the first open ditch on the second circuit in 2007, his chance of winning the National appeared to be gone forever.

 

Three months later, no longer enjoying racing or going racing, Aspell retired from race riding. However, after working as pupil assistant to Arundel trainer John Dunlop, he began to miss race riding and announced his comeback as a jockey in April, 2009. He didn’t ride in the Grand National until 2011 when, although he completed the course, was beaten the proverbial “country mile” on 66/1 outsider In Compliance, who finished thirteenth of the 19 finishers.

 

However, undeterred, Aspell was back at Aintree three years later, aboard 25/1 chance Pineau De Re, an 11-year-old trained by Dr. Richard Newland. A small, but classy, individual, Pineau De Re made a few jumping errors, but ultimately pulled clear on the run-in to beat Balthazar King by 5 lengths. Aspell said afterwards, “It’s a wonderful day. This is what we do it for.”

 

Lo and behold, Aspell won the Grand National again in 2015, aboard another 25/1 chance, Many Clouds, an 8-year-old trained by Oliver Sherwood. In so doing, he became the first jockey since Brian Fletcher, in 1974 – and just the third since World War II – to win back-to-back Nationals.

Richard Johnson’s Grand National Story

Credit: Betway

In this revealing Betway interview, Richard Johnson waxes lyrical about what a dream it would be to win the Grand National and for his children to be able to tell their friends he’d done so. He retells the story of some of his most memorable Grand National experiences and of how a 2019 win on Rock The Kabah would ‘complete the set’. Will his Grand National hopes become a reality, or is this prestigious race destined to be ‘the one that got away’ for him?

Graham Lee

Graham Lee Nowadays, 42-year-old Irishman is known exclusively as a Flat jockey. Indeed, at the time of writing, he lies thirty-ninth in the Stobart Flat Jockeys’ Championship with 19 winners. However, in his earlier days, Lee was a highly successful National Hunt jockey, riding over 1,000 winners and famously winning the Grand National on Amberleigh House, trained by Donald “Ginger” McCain, in 2004.

 

In fact, Lee rode in the National eight times between 2003 and 2011, missing out just once, in 2008, when he gave up the ride on Idle Talk, trained by Donald McCain Jnr., after failing to recover sufficiently from a fractured jaw sustained in February that year. At the time, Lee said, “I’m going to sit tight, but it’s going to kill me that I’m missing it.”

 

Lee rode Amberleigh House in four successive Nationals, finishing third to Monty’s Pass in 2003, winning in 2004, finishing tenth behind Hedgehunter in 2005 and pulling up at the fence before Becher’s Brook on the second circuit in 2006. Lee fondly remembered his National winner, saying, “He was very small for an Aintree horse, but he loved the place. He was only 15.2 hands, but would grow a hand for just seeing an Aintree fence. He never made a single mistake in the National.”

 

Indeed, in four subsequent Nationals, Lee completed the course just once more, on Big Fella Thanks, trained by Ferdy Murphy, who finished seventh behind Ballabriggs in 2011 on his last ride in the race. Lee switched to Flat racing in 2012, citing weight issues – in his case, struggling to keep weight on, rather than take it off – as his reason for doing so.