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Kilcullen Gran (104) is Grand National Champ’s No1 fan

Grand National winning Jockey Leighton Aspell's biggest fan, his granny, at 104 years young, Bridget Aspell from Kilcullen.                  Photo Tony Keane.

Grand National winning Jockey Leighton Aspell's biggest fan, his granny, at 104 years young, Bridget Aspell from Kilcullen. Photo Tony Keane.

The latest Grand National winning jockey may have thousands of new fans after last weekend but his most loyal number one supporter is his 104-year-old granny, Bridget Aspell from Kilcullen.

Leighton Aspell epitomised coolness personified as he crossed the line at Aintree on Saturday, but the nerves were jangling at Conroy Park, Killcullen.

Bridget was joined by her daughter Molly and son in law Arthur Duffy as they settled in to watch the big race.

Leighton’s cousin Phil Duffy caught up with the action from his home in Suncroft, but dropped by afterwards to celebrate.

“There were tears shed by every one of the Aspell family and all the relatives. They were tears of joy,” he remarked.

“To be honest I tipped him to everybody I knew because, number one - I thought he had a chance and, number two - I was hoping and praying he’d win because he was my cousin.”

Phil had a fiver each way on the first two finishers.

“I had my fingers crossed, my legs, everything,” he added.

As Pineau De Re jumped the last fence, Phil could see the horse was motoring well and the win was on.

When asked how his granny and mum reacted, Phil declared Bridget enjoyed a hot whiskey after the race.

“When I called over, I asked her did she want another one and she asked ‘did a bird every fly on one wing?’,” he explained.

To say racing is in Leighton’s blood, is a major understatement. His father Paddy was a jockey and both he and Leighton’s mum, Mary travelled over to England for the race. His brother Paddy junior is also on the circuit and started out in National Hunt before taking up flat racing.

His sister Lynette is in Australia and his brother Eoin was also cheering him on.

Leighton grew up in Narraghmore and went to school locally where he was taught by Mrs Gleeson.

At the age of 15, he headed off to the Reg Hollinshead jockey apprentice school. Despite a relatively successful career, he retired in 2007 before making a comeback in 2009.

During his sabbatical he tried his hand at training with the Dunlops from his base at Lambourn but was itching to get back racing.

This season has proved to be his most noteworthy, but he remains down to earth despite his success.

There was no time for showboating when he clinched the win on Saturday.

“Leighton is not that sort of guy. He is not flamboyant. He puts the head down and works hard and is thankful for everything he’s done. He doesn’t like be to flashy about things,” added Phil.

The jockey comes back to Ireland two or three times a year and the first person he calls to visit each time is his granny.

 

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