Many Clouds delighted trainer Oliver Sherwood in a schooling session ahead of his bid to repeat last year’s victory in the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree tomorrow week.
Sherwood could not be happier as Many Clouds attempts to emulate the legendary Red Rum, who was the last horse to record back-to-back victories in the world’s greatest steeplechase 42 years ago.
“He just popped over a few fences today. Leighton [Aspell] rode him. He’s fine, he’s A1 and I’m very happy. Everything is tickety boo,” said the Lambourn handler. “He’ll do a bit of light work on Saturday morning. It’s just routine stuff now until the big day.”
Tom George cannot wait for the big day with Saint Are, who was second last year but is 2lb better off for being beaten a length and three-quarters.
“I’m very happy with him. Everything’s going right,” said the Slad trainer. “He did some schooling on Wednesday and we’re just keeping him ticking over and try to keep him where we are and in one piece.” The Druids Nephew appeared to be going well in the lead when he fell at the fifth-last fence last year and a return trip to Aintree has been the target ever since.
Trainer Neil Mulholland has booked Denis O’Regan and he put the nine-year-old through his paces over Grand National replica fences at Lambourn yesterday morning.
“It’s going very well. He schooled over Grand National fences this morning and everything went according to plan,” said the Wiltshire handler.
“Denis rode him in his work and he rides him at Aintree. We’re happy at the minute, so it’s fingers crossed.”
Of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ entries, only Double Ross is guaranteed a run and the Naunton trainer believes he is the right type. He should know having lifted the great race with Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree in 2002.
“Double Ross hasn’t had the greatest season. He’s had a second and a fourth and hasn’t won, but the National will suit him,” said Twiston-Davies.
Aspell, meanwhile, will certainly not be short on confidence heading to Aintree next week after a double at Bangor.
He teamed up with Sherwood for the Stella Cidre Handicap Hurdle which they won with Weststreet.
Freshened up after a below-par run in January, the 7-2 chance ran out a six-length winner.
“He just didn’t perform last time, he had a real off day, but prior to that he’d been consistent,” said Aspell.
“I think Oliver had him treated for ulcers, and some horses feel them more than others.
“He’d been nicely freshened up and as he’s won a point I think he’ll go chasing at some point.”
For the feature Stella Artois Handicap Chase, Aspell teamed up with Rebecca Curtis on Mezendore (9-1) to beat stablemate Tara Road by two and three-quarter lengths.
“He’d been running at the big tracks in Ireland so it was good planning by Rebecca to run here as it was good prize-money,” said Aspell.
With just over a week to go before Many Clouds bids for a repeat, Aspell, who retired several years ago only to realise he had made a mistake, told Racing UK: “He was really impressive at Kelso and while there are better horses than him in the race, like Silviniaco Conti who won two King Georges, and Carlingford Lough, who has just been fourth in a Gold Cup, he ticks all the boxes. We know he likes the trip and the fences – they still have to prove it. I keep pinching myself. I could have blown it and I’m very grateful for a second crack.”