9 things you might not know about Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup jockey Leighton Aspell

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  • Today, Leighton Aspell and Many Clouds bid to win what most professional jockeys regard as the pinnacle of National Hunt racing, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup

    1. The 38-year-old ‘retired’, taking 18 months out of the sport, in 2007. But he made a surprise return, saying he missed the camaraderie of the weighing room

    2. In the past 12 months he has won both the 2014 Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on Pineau De Re and the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Many Clouds

    3. Today (Friday 13 March) he rides 17.1hh Many Clouds for trainer Oliver Sherwood in the Betfred Gold Cup at Cheltenham. “The Hennessy was his target but he’s gone forward from that. He jumps, he proved he stays three and a quarter miles, he’s had a nice feel of Cheltenham over three miles and he has a lovely cruising speed. I’m hoping all that combined will put him thereabouts in the Gold Cup,” says Leighton

    4. Leighton has a brother Paddy, also a jockey, who rides on the Flat. However, Paddy rode Chief Dan George to victory over the jumps at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010

    5. Kildare-born Leighton is the only jockey with an official fan club

    6. Leighton runs a pre-training business at home with his wife

    7. He’d had 10 race rides by the time he was 16

    8. His first winner over jumps was for Richard Rowe on Karar at Huntingdon in May 1995

    9. Leighton is yet to ride a Cheltenham Festival winner but his confidence this year is sky high. “Without question I’m riding better than I was in my 20s,” he says. “These days jockeys are fitter, busier, we ride Sundays and during the summer, there’s a lot more available to us like nutrition and fitness advice and I’ve been at it long enough to know what suits me diet and fitness-wise.”

    You can read the full interview with Leighton Aspell in this week’s Horse & Hound, out Thursday 12 March

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