Racing: Muck-raking fine for Aspell

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The Independent Online

An alarm clock will harangue Paddy Aspell at six o'clock sharp this morning. Moments later the stable lad will step a few short yards from his quarters to start mucking out horse boxes. After other duties, the 20-year-old will begin his morning stint of work-riding up on the gallops. There will be time for breakfast before more work-riding.

The daily routine will help keep Aspell's feet on the ground after a rapid recognition in the last few weeks of his talents in the saddle. Suddenly he has become the most in-demand 7lb-claiming jumps jockey in the country.

Aspell took his total of winners to 11 on Carrick Troop at Newbury on Friday and then added another winner, Maceo, at the same track on Saturday. Both winners were for his employer, Mary Reveley, who trains at Groundhill Farm, near Saltburn in Cleveland.

A sibling of established, Southern-based jumps jockey Leighton Aspell, his skills may even be on view at Cheltenham next week. Young Aspell would not get a look-in there if it were not for the 7lb that as a conditional, or apprentice, rider he takes off a horse's back. After he achieves 15 winners, his allowance is cut to 5lb.

Trainers, apart from Reveley, have noticed his ability and his weight allowance could prove decisive in one of the Festival's handicaps. Unusually for a claimer, he could be considered to be even better over fences than over hurdles.

From the village of Narragh More in Co Kildare, Aspell is 5ft 8in and can easily ride at 9st 7lb. After arriving in Britain at the age of 16, he worked as a stable hand at Sue and Harvey Smith's yard, before switching to Reveley only two months ago.

"I work as a stable hand, riding three or four lots a day, looking after your three or four horses, feeding them, mucking out the boxes – everything that needs doing," he said yesterday. "We start at 6am on a Monday, and 7am the rest of the week. I live in a bungalow, right on the yard."

Aspell's riding career was going nowhere until Richard Hale, a jockeys' agent, took him on. "Richard stuck his neck out for me really, before I was riding winners. I'd had a lot of falls, and my confidence was not high. My style has taken a lot of coming together. Richard told me where I was wrong. Over a fence or a hurdle, I was committing the horse 100 per cent, but committing myself 80 per cent. Richard spotted it and I think I've solved it. I'm more in tune with the horse."

Aspell credits Mrs Reveley, and her son Keith, with guiding him, building his confidence and giving him the breaks. "This stable want their riders to be quiet in the saddle, riding a patient race, going there but not producing your horse too early. And they don't like a horse to be knocked about. As for me, I don't like to look like a 7lb-claimer when I'm riding," he adds.

Back in Aspell's homeland yesterday, Paul Carberry extended his advantage at the top of the Irish jockeys' championship as 14-1 chance Champagne Native came back to form in style in the 2m5f Mick Holly Memorial Handicap Chase at Leopardstown.

Perhaps more significantly, Papillon, the 2000 Grand National winner, finished a disappointing fifth, more than 45 lengths adrift of Champagne Native in the heavy ground.

But Papillon should still make Aintree. Ted Walsh, his trainer, said: "I certainly wouldn't be over the moon about that performance. He's gone a bit cute and we had to get a run into him, though it obviously wasn't his ground. He hasn't been doing much at home and has got a bit heavy. He runs over hurdles at Punchestown in a fortnight and, if he's well, he'll go in Aintree whatever."

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