Born on June 12th, 1976, Leighton Aspell was victorious in two Grand National races, as well as riding many other big race winners during his career. He retired from the sport, for a second time, in 2017, and this time he really has finished race riding.
He will be remembered for piloting both Pineau de Re in 2014 and Many Clouds in 2015, becoming the first jockey to win back-to-back Grand Nationals since Brian Fletcher, who rode Red Rum to success, and being just the third since World War II to complete that feat.
He rode a total of 10 times in the race, five times before his first retirement, where he only completed once and then five times after he began to ride again, completing on every occasion and winning two.
With a second placed finish in 2003 to go alongside his two wins, Aspell is a jockey with one of the best Grand National records of recent times.
Leighton Aspell Grand National Wins
- 2015 - Many Clouds trained by Oliver Sherwood
- 2014 - Pineau de Re trained by Richard Newland
|2017||Lord Windermere||7||£6,800||Jim Culloty|
|2016||Many Clouds||16||-||Oliver Sherwood|
|2015||Many Clouds||1||£561,300||Oliver Sherwood|
|2014||Pineau de Re||1||£561,300||Richard Newland|
|2011||In Compliance||13||-||Dessie Hughes|
|2007||Billyvoddan||Fence 19 - Pulled Up||-||Henry Daly|
|2006||Ballycassidy||Fence 25 - Fell||-||Peter Bowen|
|2005||Take The Stand||Fence 15 - Unseated Rider||-||Peter Bowen|
|2004||Skycab||Fence 6 - Unseated Rider||-||Nick Gifford|
|2003||Supreme Glory||2||£132,000||Pat Murphy|
A First Grand National Win Aboard Pineau de Re in 2014
The first Grand National win in the career of Leighton Aspell came in 2014, which was his seventh attempt at the race, and his second since returning to ride after his first retirement in 2007, a period of almost two years where he worked for John Dunlop, still involved in racing, but not race riding.
Pineau de Re won the race by five lengths, putting together an excellent round under Aspell. The race was wide open, with 10/1 joint-favourites, and the winner was sent off as a 25/1 shot, meaning this was a victory for the bookmakers, rather than punters.
It was a race where smaller names came to the fore, including Aspell himself. He was not one of the biggest names in the weighing room, and trainer Richard Newland is in a similar mould, a big player in national hunt racing, but certainly not a name that non-regular watchers of the sport would know.
It should be noted that Aspell only got the ride due to being available and it being a spare. Pineau de Re was regularly partnered by Sam Twiston-Davies, but he opted to ride Tidal Bay, who was strongly fancied for the race. Ultimately, that was the wrong choice, which gave Aspell the winning ride.
Back-to-Back Grand National Wins in 2015 Aboard Many Clouds
Winning this race once is what dreams are made of for any national hunt rider, but doing it a second time really is something special. That is exactly what happened to Leighton Aspell, and not only that, but his two wins came in back-to-back years, on different horses.
His second Grand National success came in 2015 when he rode Many Clouds to victory for Oliver Sherwood. This was a horse he was associated with, not a spare, though, of course, that did mean giving up the ride on Pineau de Re, who was also back looking for a double, though he could only finish 12th.
Just two people since World War II had won back-to-back Grand Nationals, Leighton Aspell became the third to do it, the first since the days of Red Rum and Brian Fletcher.
Many Clouds is an incredibly popular horse in his own right, and he certainly helped elevate Aspell to a bigger stage, not only with this National win but with other wins during his career. The pair made a great partnership, and did try to win the race again in 2016, but were only able to finish 16th.
Retirement and a Return to Race Riding
A small quirk to the career of Leighton Aspell is the fact that in July 2007, he decided to retire from race riding. He planned to remain in racing, and he worked for John Dunlop during this time. However, in April 2009, he announced he would be coming back to the sport. He stated that he didn’t want to regret not race riding for longer in years to come and had decided to come back and see what happened.
The best part of his career, including both Grand National victories, came during this period, so it is fair to say in terms of success, it was certainly the right decision made for Aspell.