Many Clouds wins the 2015 Grand National
Leighton Aspell makes it two in two as AP McCoy just falls short of fairytale ending
Many Clouds gave Leighton Aspell his second consecutive Grand National win. Photograph: PA
Successful aboard Pineau De Re 12 months ago, Aspell was never too far off the pace and Many Clouds, winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury earlier in the season and sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, jumped with aplomb throughout.
For a long way it appeared Shutthefrontdoor could provide Tony McCoy with a fairytale second National triumph before his retirement, but he eventually weakened into fifth place.
Many Clouds tired from the elbow, but had enough in the tank to hold off Saint Are, with Monbeg Dude third and Alvarado fourth.
All the pre-race talk concerned McCoy, the 19-times champion jockey who had announced his intention to retire in February and said that if he managed to win on Shutthefrontdoor he would call it a day there and then.
For a long way it looked as if that might happen, as last year’s Irish Grand National winner cruised through the race, but McCoy admitted afterwards that he knew Many Clouds would be a tough horse to pass.
McCoy knew that because he had chased home Many Clouds on Merry King in the Hennessy Gold Cup in November, a victory which signalled Sherwood’s renaissance.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, the former jockey looked like being at the top of the tree for the rest of his career, but a dip in fortunes has only recently been averted.
Throughout his lean years, Sherwood, brother of Desert Orchid’s jockey, Simon, maintained his cheery disposition and through the help of loyal owners, including Hemmings, he has fought his way back to the top table.
While numerically he will never be challenging Paul Nicholls or Willie Mullins, with Many Clouds winning the Hennessy and National in the same season he has created his own little piece of history.
In truth, Aspell barely had a moment of worry, unlike last year’s win on Pineau De Re when he had to survive the odd obstacle along the way.
It is quite incredible to think that not too long ago Aspell became disillusioned with life in the saddle and retired, only to return and find success much easier to come by.
The Druids Nephew could have been the fly in the ointment as the Cheltenham winner was still going great guns in front when he fell at the 26th of the 29 fences (the Canal Turn on the second circuit was omitted).
Shutthefrontdoor looked a threat until his stamina ran out, so it was left to Tom George’s Saint Are to challenge on the run-in, but he failed to reel in the popular winner and was a length and three-quarters down at the line.
Monbeg Dude stayed on from a mile back to claim third and last year’s fourth Alvarado filled the same spot again.
Incredibly, Alvarado’s rider Paul Moloney was finishing in the first four for the seventh successive year.
For Hemmings it was a third Grand National and for a local man, who buys horses specifically to win the race, there is no question of the thrill being any less than his first win with Hedgehunter in 2005. Ballabriggs also carried his colours to victory in 2011.
Aspell became the first rider since Bryan Marshall in 1953-54 to win the National in successive years on different horses (Early Mist and Royal Tan).
But for Sherwood it was his first, and there can only ever be one of those.
After winning the Hennessy, Many Clouds won the BetBright Cup at Cheltenham, a noted trial for the Gold Cup, but in the blue riband itself he never looked totally happy and finished only sixth.
Sherwood said: “I can’t believe it, it was some spin. All I wanted was the horse to come back in one piece.
“He was foot-perfect and didn’t make a mistake. I thought it was a year too soon, but he was fit and healthy and it was Trevor’s decision — he must get all the credit.
“The horse has been unbelievable all season, he has blossomed all year — he just got out of bed the wrong way in the Gold Cup.
“I didn’t show him any National fences on purpose, I thought he had just gone over the top before the Gold Cup.
“I didn’t see my horse come back in, so I was a bit worried, but I gather he was just a bit wobbly and he’s OK.
“It was some spin from Leighton — to win it two years on the bounce is just unreal.
“Take nothing away from the winner of the Gold Cup (Coneygree), but I still don’t think he ran his race.
“Luckily this year there’s an extra week from Cheltenham to Aintree, which has made a huge difference.
“I’m going to really enjoy this one — I’m in cloud cuckoo land!
“I’ve never had a finisher in the race before, my record was dreadful.”
He added: “I never doubted myself in the lean years, but if you don’t have the ammunition you can’t go to war.
“That will be it for this season, we’ll think about next year over the summer but I’d like to think we’ll be back here next year.”
Aspell said this year he was going to be able to enjoy it much more.
“It was wonderful and we will certainly celebrate tonight. I asked some big questions, but he dug deep,” he said.
“He looked great going into today, but I just had a nagging doubt about the Gold Cup run, until we set off I wouldn’t know.
“Last year when I won I was shell-shocked and I’d had to work hard at various points in the race. Today I was going well from a long way out.”
Hemmings said: “Seriously, it was incredible. 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.”