Liverpool - Leighton Aspell, last year's winning Grand National
jockey, struck again on Many Clouds in Saturday's Aintree marathon as
Tony McCoy's bid for a fairytale send-off ended in gallant failure.
McCoy, on his 20th and last appearance in the world famous
steeplechase before retirement in a fortnight, held every chance over
the last on 6-1 favourite Shutthefrontdoor.
But the pair had to settle for fifth as Aspell and a foot-perfect
Many Clouds held off the spirited challenge of Saint Are to become the
first jockey to win back-to-back editions of the gruelling
four-and-a-half mile 30-fence spectacle on different horses since Bryan
Marshall in 1953/54.
Brian Fletcher achieved the feat on the same horse, Red Rum, in 1973/74.
Many Clouds, trained by Oliver Sherwood and owned by British tycoon
Trevor Hemmings, was returned at 25-1. Saint Are (25-1) filled the
runner-up spot, one-and-three quarters lengths back with Moonbeg Dude
belying his 40-1 starting price to claim third, six lengths adrift.
Alvarado (20-1) was fourth with Shutthefrontdoor and McCoy in fifth.
Aspell, who chose to ride Many Clouds in place of last year's
unplaced winner Pineau de Re, said: "Wonderful, we'll certainly
"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 low
key sixth in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month.
"The horse has been unbelievable, blossoming all season. I don't know
what happened in the Gold Cup, he got out of the wrong side of the bed
"I've never showed him a fence at the National on purpose. But what do I know about horses!"
Hemmings, owner of third tier English football league side Preston North End, was welcoming 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."
He added: "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. Thank you Oliver Sherwood,
thank you Leighton and all the staff, and, of course, Aintree."
Even though he didn't pull off a fairytale swansong McCoy was thrilled with his 20th and final National appearance.
"He jumped fantastic, I wouldn't mind riding him again next year!" said the master rider from Northern Ireland.
"I'm going to miss riding horses like that, I thought for a long way we could win it."
Saint Are's rider Paddy Brennan was frustrated and elated in equal measure for getting so close to landing the big one.
"I had a great time out there," he said.
"It's great to be part of a tremendous horse race, but not nice to be
second, although I was second to a true gentleman in Leighton Aspell."
While Shutthefrontdoor ran a blinder for his backers there was
disappointment for the well fancied Rocky Creek, 8-1 second favourite
but only 17th of the 19 finishers.
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.
And Nine Carberry's attempt to make history by becoming the first woman to ride a National winner will have to wait another year as she trailed in 16th on First Lieutenant.
Last year's winner, Pineau de Re, was 12th.