Oliver Sherwood already has one eye on next year’s Crabbie’s Grand National for Many Clouds after reporting the Aintree hero in “fantastic” form after his momentous triumph on Merseyside under last year’s winning jockey Leighton Aspell.
All the pre-race talk concerned Tony McCoy, the 19-times champion jockey who had announced his intention to retire in February and said that if he managed to win on Shutthefrontdoor, sent off 6-1 favourite, he would call it a day there and then.
For a long way it looked as if that might happen, as last year’s Irish Grand National winner cruised through the race, but McCoy admitted afterwards that he knew the Trevor Hemmings-owned 25-1 shot Many Clouds would be a tough horse to pass.
The Druids Nephew could have been the fly in the ointment as the Cheltenham winner was still going great guns in front when he fell at the 26th of the 29 fences.
Shutthefrontdoor looked a threat until his stamina ran out, so it was left to Tom George’s Saint Are to challenge on the run-in, but he failed to reel in the popular winner and was a length and three-quarters down at the line.
Monbeg Dude stayed on from a mile back to claim third and last year’s fourth Alvarado filled the same spot again.
Yorkshire’s sole hope Night In Milan completed the course a distant 18th of the 19th finishers for Keith and James Reveley in a race in which there were no fatalities. The day belonged to Many Clouds and Messrs Sherwood, Aspell and Hemmings, and Sherwood said: “I can’t believe it, it was some spin. All I wanted was the horse to come back in one piece.
“He was foot-perfect and didn’t make a mistake. I thought it was a year too soon, but he was fit and healthy and it was Trevor’s decision – he must get all the credit.
“The horse has been unbelievable all season, he has blossomed all year – he just got out of bed the wrong way in the Gold Cup. I didn’t show him any National fences on purpose, I thought he had just gone over the top before the Gold Cup.
“It was some spin from Leighton – to win it two years on the bounce is just unreal.
“He can only carry a pound more next year and we’ll probably train him for the National as opposed to the Gold Cup.”
Owner Hemmings has now won three Grand Nationals following the triumphs of Hedgehunter in 2005 and Ballabriggs in 2011.
“Seriously, it was incredible,” he said. “You come to the National and you dream that you win it. When a third comes along, that is something special.”
Winning jockey Aspell won the last year on Pineau De Re and added: “Last year when I won I was shell-shocked and I’d had to work hard at various points in the race. Today I was going well from a long way out.”
Many Clouds is already favourite to win next year’s race and is priced from 16-1 to 25-1.