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Sunday at just after 17:20 in a low-key national hunt flat race at Fontwell was the scene of the drawing of the curtain on the illustrious career of Leighton Aspell.

Riding the new comer Itsnotwhatyouthink trained by Nick Gifford the five year old showed his inexperience having to be rousted along at various points throughout the contest but failing to get to the eventual winner Jetaway Joey.

Although he wasn't able to mark his final day in the saddle with a win we take a moment to look back at the brilliant career of a much loved constant of many a weighing room over the past 20 plus years.

We learnt of the 43 year olds decision this Saturday when despite all the fantastic action on the turf on we were presented with a bit of a shock off Leighton made his unexpected announcement, albeit for the second time in his career, and informed the world that he was set to retire.

Speaking to the ITV cameras Aspell somewhat jovially proclaimed "This is for definite now!" (Eluding to the fact he's retired once before) "I've had a brilliant second innings with the Hennessy and two Nationals."

"Retirement has been something that has been on my mind for a while. I could have retired at the end of the season, but when the entries came out for this week and I saw it was Fontwell on the Sunday – a local track – I thought I'd do it then."

When speaking of his fantastic achievements in the saddle "The highlight of my career would be the Nationals, but also riding for so many great people. Oliver, Lucy Wadham, Josh Gifford, Nick Gifford; I've been really lucky."

"I'm very proud to do it for as long as I have and it's not for medical reasons or a lack of rides. I'm still going out on a relative high."

On his announcement he stated that very few people knew of his impending retirement and it was even joked about in the weighing room on Saturday. "We were just mucking about in the weighing room and someone said I had a few more years left and I said, 'Funnily enough, I haven't – it'll come to an end tomorrow'. (Sunday)"

"They thought I was joking because I'd done it once before, but hopefully I can do some line of work that allows me to stay close to the guys in the weighing room."

Of his many racing achievements by far his great relationship with the sadly ill-fated Many Clouds and his consecutive victories in the worlds biggest steeplechase the Grand National back in 2014 with Pineau De Re and the fondly loved "Clouds" in 2015 stand head and shoulders above the rest.

On the next chapter of his future in racing Aspell mentioned a whole host of future positions: "I'll take some time and then try to work something out," he said. "I'll do some pre-training, but I'm very interested in handicapping, race-reading, form analysis and I'd be very interested in a job along those lines."

written by Rory Paddock


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