Breeder Aidan Aherne hailed Many Clouds as “a people’s horse” after the 2015 Grand National’s hero sudden death following his shock defeat of Thistlecrack in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.
While lovers of National Hunt racing are still coming to terms with the loss of a horse that epitomised the sport, Aherne can reflect with pride upon the career of Many Clouds.
“He was a people’s horse, and probably the greatest National winner since Red Rum,” Aherne said.
“He always gave his all - every day of his life.”
That colourful life began at Aherne’s Windward House Stud in County Cork on April 21, 2007 after the successful mating between Cloudings and the mare Bobbing Back.
From day one, Aherne had an inkling the young horse was special and was delighted when Trevor Hemmings agreed to buy him.
“Even as a foal, he looked like a good horse. He was a big enough foal and looked nice and had a nice walk,” he said.
“I persuaded Trevor Hemmings to buy him and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Aherne followed Many Clouds’ career every step of the way – right from his debut success in a Wetherby bumper five years ago to the heady heights of victories in the Hennessy Gold Cup and Grand National, to his dramatic final appearance on Saturday.
“Oliver Sherwood always said he was a horse that would go over a cliff for you. On Saturday, he went over that cliff and went out battling,” he said.
“From the day he won his bumper at Wetherby, I was there with him all the way.
“I feel very sorry for all the people who were with him every day of his life.
“To Oliver, to Trevor, to Leighton Aspell – the only jockey to ever ride him – to CJ (Chris Jerdin), Lisa (Kozak) and Nathan (Horrocks), my heart goes out to them.
“He was 10 years old and probably going down the hill, but who is to say he couldn’t have won the Gold Cup?
“Compared to the Flat game, people get attached to National Hunt horses as they are around a lot longer, and people definitely grew attached to Many Clouds.”
Aherne has the family and is already looking forward to future generations.
He added: “His mother is pregnant and in foal to Milan and I also have his four-year-old half-sister, who is due in February, so the legacy and the family live on.”
Meanwhile, champion jockey Richard Johnson is in action at Ayr today as the course stages its fourth January meeting.
There are three hurdles races, two steeplechases and a national hunt flat race.
Johnson rides Robin des Mana for leading Irish trainer Gordon Elliott in the opening race, the racinguk.com National Hunt Maiden Hurdle at 1.50 pm. He then partners Storm Nelson for Tom Lacey in the bumper which ends the card at 4.35 pm.
Borders-based father and son trainer/jockey partnership Stuart and Sam Coltherd team up on Achill Road Boy in the Racing UK In HD Chase (a Novices’ Limited Handicap) over three miles at 3.30pm.
The same trainer, jockey and horse combination won at the track in December.
The Racing UK Winter Season Ticket Handicap Chase over two and a half miles at 4.00pm is a Northern Lights Series Middle Distance Qualifier and Milnathort trainer Lucinda Russell runs Tap Night in the famous JP McManus colours.
At Plumpton, Royal Salute, lines up in the Strong Flavours Handicap Chase and the seven-year-old has not done too badly so far, winning three of his 14 outings, including over this course and distance last time out.
Racing off a 4lb lower mark earlier this month, Royal Salute was equipped with both blinkers and a tongue tie and those appeared to combine well to help keep his jumping on point.
Some minor errors had cost him in previous outings but a clear round saw Royal Salute staying on strongly to register a length-and-three-quarters verdict for trainer Anthony Honeyball and jockey Harry Cobden.
Oscars Boss is the pick in the Bill Cornford Memorial Maiden Hurdle as he has his first start over obstacles. Trained by Adrian Maguire in Ireland last year, Oscars Boss was a twice a winner in bumper company in 2016, including when beating the well-regarded Black Ace at Tipperary.
His final outing yielded a satisfactory third behind the well-tried Miss Eyecatcher, but Oscars Boss always looked the type who would improve and he can make a winning start for Neil Mulholland.
Hold On Magnolia was beaten just a neck in a tight finish at Southwell and can go a couple of places better in the Betway Handicap back at the Nottinghamshire circuit. While it was only a modest event, Richard Fahey’s charge turned in a more than satisfactory effort given that he had been raised 4lb for winning at Newcastle before Christmas.
The handicapper has left him alone following that run and he is very versatile in terms of all-weather surfaces.