Friday 15 December 2017

aspell in the clouds

The wait for a first Irish-trained winner of the Aintree Grand National since Silver Birch in 2007 goes on but jockey Leighton Aspell only had to wait 12 months to enjoy the joyous occasion of winning the world's most famous race for a second time after he guided Many Clouds around the famous course on Saturday afternoon.

The presence of the same name on the Aintree Grand National roll of honour is rare, probably rarer than any other big race in our sport, but on Saturday, the once retired Aspell saw his name etched under the winning jockey column for the second year in a row while owner Trevor Hemmings was enjoying his third win in the race, with a third different horse and third different trainer.

Ruby Walsh was the last jockey to win the National twice when he followed the 2000 triumph on Papillon with Hedgehunter five years later but Aspell was becoming the first rider to win it two years on the trot since Brian Fletcher on Red Rum in 1973 and 1974 and you'd have to go back to Bryan Marshall in 1953 and 1954 for a jockey to win back-to-back renewals of the famous race on two different horses.

Many Clouds himself was rewriting the history books becoming the first winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury to win a National and again you have to go back to the Red Rum days to find a horse that carried 11st 9lbs or more around the marathon trip.

The eight-year-old did disappoint in the Gold Cup but that has been his only blot this season and trainer Oliver Sherwood simply put it down to the horse "getting out of the wrong side of the bed" and although the Grand National was an afterthought this year, Sherwood did suggest that it will be top of his priority list next season and you wonder if he could manage to make more comparisons with the legendary Red Rum.

With his profile, Many Clouds could well be a horse that is open to a little more improvement after proving on Saturday that he has the class and the staying capabilities to win a National.


Whether he'll be able to win back-to-back renewals of the race remains to be seen but you'd certainly have to imagine that he will at some stage become the first Aintree hero since Bindaree in 2002 to win a race on the track after his National triumph.

Speaking yesterday, the winning trainer said: "I couldn't give a monkey's about next year, I am just going to enjoy this moment.

"I was worried about what happened in the Gold Cup so even yesterday I was going in blind because he didn't run his race then. It was Trevor Hemmings who persuaded me to run in the Grand National so he deserves a lot of credit."

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