By Simon Jackson.
Grand National winner Many Clouds returns to the scene of his greatest victory to contest the Betfred Lotto ‘£100K Cash Giveaway’ Chase at Aintree on Saturday.
Many Clouds’ win in this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National under Leighton Aspell capped a terrific campaign for the Oliver Sherwood-trained eight-year-old whose preparation is being geared towards the 2016 National.
His victory in the world’s greatest steeplechase in April followed successes in the valuable Hennessy Gold Cup and BetBright Cup Chase and a sixth place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Many Clouds was sixth to Cue Card on his comeback race in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October but Sherwood revealed that his stable star is unlikely to contest the Gold Cup enroute to the Grand National in April.
“I want to keep the dream still alive for next April and his race programme is geared to that. We didn’t school him over National fences prior to the race last season on purpose,” Sherwood said at a stable visit this week.
“Leighton and I discussed it and thought that was the best policy. Sometimes you don’t know if a horse will take to the Grand National fences for a second time. Having said that the Grand National fences are different from when I rode over them. I am sure he will do well over them again but I don’t want to upset the apple cart.
“I want Many Clouds to have as easy a time as possible building up to the Crabbie’s Grand National in April but he must have the competitiveness, meaning he has got to have the races, which is necessary.
“At Aintree on Saturday, there will only be seven or eight runners. The Mildmay is a fast course but it is going to be soft ground. If it was good ground, I would be worried. People were concerned before the Grand National that he needed soft going. Ground doesn’t bother him, it is more the trip. Over four and a quarter miles, nobody wants a heavy-ground National and he was victorious on slightly soft going.”
Many Clouds appears likely to have a maximum of three runs in total before the Grand National, as the trainer wants to give him plenty of time between each race.
“Saturday will be the first time I have been back to Aintree since the Crabbie’s Grand National victory,” Sherwood continued. “I am still remember the day as though it was yesterday so I am really looking forward to returning there.
“Many Clouds was the first horse to win the Hennessy and the Grand National in the same season. He won’t run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this season – I am 99 per cent certain of that. Last season, there was a four-week gap between Cheltenham and Aintree. I think there are three weeks this year which is too close. He does need time between his races.
“Where we go after Saturday, I am open at the moment – the Denman at Newbury is one of the possibilities. I am guessing it will be one race, maximum two, after Saturday and then the 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National but I need to see how he goes on Saturday.
“I would love to get a win into him to give us all a bit of confidence ahead of Aintree in April. The huge advantage this season is that I don’t have to protect his handicap mark because he can only carry 1lb more.
“There is talk of Silviniaco Conti being in the 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National and Willie Mullins is bound to have something in as well so we could end up with less than 11st 9lb he had last year which would be a huge plus. All I need to do is to get him to the Grand National in peak condition and I hope the ground is the same as it was last season, on the soft side of good.”
The trainer’s comments follows news that the start time for the 2016 Crabbie’s Grand National will be an hour later than last year.
John Baker, Regional Director of The Jockey Club North West, explained the reason for the time change: “We are moving the Crabbie’s Grand National start time from 16.15 to 17.15 next year. We have consulted widely, with our media partners and others,” he said.
“We think it is the ‘People’s Race’, an exceptional race, and we believe there will be more people able to watch or listen to the race at 17.15.
“This move will bring the Crabbie’s Grand National to an even wider audience, which is the right thing to do.”
Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.