Randox Horse Tales | Oliver Sherwood shares his memories of Many Clouds, The People’s Horse
There was only one horse that Oliver Sherwood wanted to write about when he was asked to take part in Horse Tales – his 2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds. He was the horse of a lifetime for the Lambourn-based trainer who was hooked the moment he saw him. Clouds tragically died earlier this year and Sherwood says he misses him every day.
The minute I saw him, I knew there was something special. Of course, we all think that. But there was something about Clouds that I just liked from the start.
I had come to look over Mr Hemmings’ young horses when I first saw Clouds. He was a raw, barely broken three year old, and I saw an individualism about him, a character that appealed. From that moment I wanted to be the one to train him.
I’m sure other trainers saw Clouds’ potential too but every time I went to Mr Hemmings’ place, I’d mention to Mick Meagher, the manager, how much I liked him. However I really didn’t expect to get him, so when Mr Hemmings started allocating his horses and Mick called to say they were sending him to me, I was surprised and delighted.
When we started the serious training, I thought he was above average. You can’t be certain – I’ve seen before how horses show form but then can’t perform on the racecourse. That didn’t happen with Clouds. He won on his debut at Wetherby in February 2012, crossing the line 10-15 lengths in front. Right then I knew my gut had been right – he was going to be special. I started hoping and planning for the Hennessey Gold Cup.
He had a summer holiday after that and thickened out. When he came back, he won a handful of hurdles, and came second in the EDF Final the Saturday before Cheltenham, carrying top weight. We were certain that hurdles would be a stepping stone for him.
He was a natural chaser. In 2014 – 15 he won at Carlisle and then won the Hennessey. The rest is history. He won at Cheltenham in January though disappointed in the Gold Cup. But then he won at Aintree in 2015 and that put him on a different level.
As with so many fairy tales from the National, it was unexpected. I’d thought it was too soon for him, but I was persuaded to give it a go. It was a sensational victory. It was the second fastest time – 8 minutes 56.8 seconds, and he did it with 11 stone 9 pounds – almost the top weight. In fact no other horse had carried a higher weight and won at Aintree since Red Rum in ’74. His jockey – Leighton Aspell – said it was the best ride he’d ever had over the fences.
I was staggered by how worldwide the National is. For many trainers you want to win the Gold Cup, it’s the 100m sprint, but when I was being interviewed for the first time by broadcasters in Australia, the US and Japan after winning in 2015, they saw it as the pinnacle.
One thing is absolutely true though – you’ll never forget it. You try to explain to people who have never had horses – but you simply can’t express the thrill of seeing your horse in your colours pass the finishing post in the lead. It was Sir Fred Pontin trying to get that across to Mr Hemmings that got him into racing in the first place. He’d won with Specify in 1971, and showed Mr Hemmings the trophy. He ended up bequeathing it to him in his will – by which stage Mr Hemmings had already won one himself with Hedgehunter.
God puts you on this planet and you are what you are. Clouds, he was a performer, a competitor. He loved to race. He was a nervous horse, a bit spooky but he got more confident as he grew older. He was the proverbial gentle giant, he always wanted to please. He loved his work, he was always very keen to get out and race. Leighton was the only one who schooled and raced him.
Clouds’ last race was his best ever performance. He won by a head in a photo-finish in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham but suddenly suffered a severe pulmonary haemorrhage and despite the best efforts of the team on the course, he died just afterwards.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction from people. There have been over a thousand letters – never mind emails and Facebook messages – from all over the world. My wife has responded to every single one of them. People responded to him- they saw he was a trier and they loved that. People could relate to him – in a way he became the people’s horse.
When he won at Aintree thousands of people came out to see him when he came home. Everyone celebrated his win, and that depth of feeling continues today. Our local open day has been renamed after him, and in the village a bench will be placed in his memory thanks to the local council and the Jockey Club. At a party on Saturday here, we still had kids coming up and asking about Clouds. It’s just staggering the impact he had and the inspiration he gave to so many. I am certain he’s bringing a lot of new people into racing.
He was cremated and his ashes were returned to the Isle of Man where Mr Hemmings lives. His shoes will be mounted on a wooden plaque, and his best races inscribed on it. We’ve still got the plaque which was mounted on his box after the won the Grand National.
I’ll never forget Clouds. He will always be in my memories and those of the whole team here in Rhonehurst. Yet I’m glad he went out on a high. I’d rather that than have him suffer an injury. Death happens to us all – I would love to go as he did.
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This week in the third edition of Horse Tales we are thrilled to hear from Mike Hughes, Sports Broadcast Journalist for BBC Radio Merseyside.
Mike talks about Red Rum, “The Greatest Horse of Aintree,” and how the race conditions have changed since the millennium bringing with them the best chasers competing to win the world’s most famous race:
Even a cursory glance down the list of previous Grand National winners will highlight some seriously talented racehorses. Factor in the way the race conditions have changed since the new millennium, not to mention the incredible prize money on offer, then it’s not surprising that the very best chasers around are now competing to win the world’s most famous race.
But whatever the future holds for the race that sits at the centrepiece of the three day Aintree festival, there will only ever be one horse that can lay claim to being “The Greatest” that the famous old course has ever seen.
The Red Rum story is a remarkable one by any sporting standards. His love affair with the Grand National knew no bounds. In 1973 he came from “another parish” to pounce and steal victory on the run-in from Australian wonder horse Crisp. He became a National Hero from that point onwards. He broke the course record that year and the time has only been bettered once since.
Red Rum defended his Grand National title in 1974 with an incredible performance. Under the guidance of Brian Fletcher, he pretty much cruised around Aintree as if he owned the joint. He won the race with a swagger and poise that hasn’t been seen since. It was also an outstanding weight carrying performance. Red Rum was top weight in 1974. No horse carrying top weight has won it since.
In the 1975 & 1975 Grand National’s Red Rum was a gallant second. Firstly running a previous Gold Cup winner L’escargot close and then finishing runner up to the well handicapped Rag Trade.
By the time of the 1977 Grand National surely the passing of the years would diminish the chances of another Aintree ” day to remember” for Red Rum. Despite carrying another welter burden and being now aged 12, he put in yet another display of near faultless jumping over the toughest of fences and delivered another emphatic Grand National success. The only horse to win the race three times.
The courage of the horse is highlighted by the fact that he was engaged to run in the Grand National in 1978, but withdrew on the eve of the race due to a minor injury.
If the romantic notion of a horse who was housed in a stable behind a used car showroom in Southport, isn’t enough to convince you of Red Rum’s place in the pantheon of sporting greats then consider this.
If it wasn’t for Red Rum, then the Grand National as a sporting spectacle beyond compare, would probably not exist.
Red Rum and his loveable and outrageous trainer Ginger McCain began writing folklore history at the very same time that the world’s greatest race was under real threat of losing its Aintree home. The owners of the course in the mid 70’s were The Walton Group, property developers who outlined various proposals for Aintree, none of which would have allowed the Grand National to continue.
Red Rum became the popular galvanising force that made ordinary people take notice of this once a year event again. He was the horse and the story that put the Grand National back on the front pages of the world’s newspapers.
When we remember this year as the fortieth anniversary of Red Rum’s third and final Grand National victory we need also to think back ten years earlier, April 7th 1967. It was the horse’s first ever Aintree appearance, as a two year old in a five furlong flat race. Red Rum was never known for his flat racing pedigree, but this was the day he fell in love with this very special racecourse. He dead-heated for first place.
Red Rum’s record and his place in history means that he really is “The Greatest Horse of Aintree”
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It stands at 45 centimetres tall, is solid silver gilded with gold, and depicts horses galloping through strands of DNA – and in just over 50 days will be presented to the winner of the 2017 Randox Health Grand National.
The sought-after trophy was unveiled by Dr Peter FitzGerald, founder of Randox, and 20-time Champion Jockey Sir Anthony McCoy at the annual Weights Reception, held this year in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Northern Irish sporting legend won the Grand National in 2010 and has now joined Randox Health as a brand ambassador.
Dr. Peter FitzGerald, Founder and Managing Director of Randox Health, said,
“To win the Grand National is one of the crowning achievements in sport and in this our first year of sponsorship, we sought to commission a trophy which would complement this tremendous success. I am delighted with the result, as the trophy captures the heart of both the race and Randox – in the speed of the horses and the strands of DNA. I look forward to the moment this trophy is presented to the winner of the 2017 Randox Health Grand National and wish everyone taking part the very best.
“As sponsor we sought to further recognise the achievements of the winning team, which will join a cast of legends. This year for the first time and for every year of our partnership, the trainer, jockey and groom will receive a scale representation of the trophy, as we pay tribute to the teamwork that goes into achieving such monumental success.”
As the trophy was unveiled on stage in the V&A its designer, Silversmith Shannon O’Neill, explained to the audience the thinking behind her design and the work involved in creating such an iconic piece of art.
“As an artist, you search for that foothold of inspiration in every commission. With Randox, that came immediately. I wanted to depict the pursuit of glory in the race with the pursuit of health. For me, nothing is more positive than encouraging people to take control of their lives in order to achieve greatness – in whatever field they choose.
“Months of hard work have gone in to designing and creating the piece of art that will this year become the trophy awarded to the first ever winner of the Randox Health Grand National. I look forward to seeing this trophy put into the hands of the victor!”
The official reveal of the trophy has come after a number of weeks of teaser images released to the public, following its hallmarking at the Goldsmith’s Assay Office in London on the 24th January.
Guests were also given an exclusive viewing of Randox’s virtual reality film which stars Sir Anthony McCoy and reveals what goes on inside a Randox Health clinic, including a look at its revolutionary ‘Evolution’ blood screening machine.
The full virtual reality video will be displayed at the Randox Health Grand National on Thursday 6th April.
Randox are rolling out additional clinics across the country including in Liverpool and Manchester, and internationally including Dubai and in the USA.
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On a crisp and sunny winter morning in the County Tipperary countryside, Grand National 2016 winner Rule The World returned to the busy stables that prepared him for his victory over Aintree’s fences.
Trainer Mouse Morris had not seen his winning horse since he made the decision to retire him earlier this year, and so the launch of the Randox Health Grand National 2017 was an emotional reunion for all involved.
Winning jockey David Mullins was also there to welcome back his Grand National partner. His win with Rule The World was a fantastic introduction to the world’s most famous race – a victory on his very first attempt!
And the team from Everardsgrange Stables in Fethard fancy their chances at another Aintree victory – this year entering three horses in the Randox Health Grand National, including Irish Grand National winner Rogue Angel.
“There is no point in sleeping if you don’t dream. To win the Grand National with him would be a dream come true.”
Stuart Penrose, Global Marketing Manager for Randox, was excited for the journey to the Randox Health Grand National 2017 to begin;
“The Grand National is a massive race right across the world, and this year the teams expect the new broadcaster ITV will deliver an audience in excess of 12m. While we’re a global leader in the business world, we are now launching ourselves as a company with direct interaction with the public through our Randox Health clinics and we couldn’t have picked a better way to broadcast our message. We are extremely happy.”
Eamon Lenehan, Global Marketing Manager, commented;
“It is truly one of those events that transcends the sport. I think what really resonated with us is that it is known as ‘The People’s Race’, and so our commitment to improving people’s lives through health is a great fit.”
While the race is so accessible, its popularity and wonder also lies in its unpredictability. Rule The World, a horse who’d been carefully brought back from a twice fractured pelvis, won the race in 2016 as a maiden over fences.
John Baker, Aintree Managing Director, rounded off a wonderful day at Mouse Morris’ yard by saying;
“Hopefully we can write some more history next year.”
Listen to the full interviews with Mouse Morris, Eamon Lenehan, Stuart Penrose and John Baker, with Racing Journalist Dave Keena below!
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