Oliver Sherwood bridged a 24-year gap when landing his second triumph in the Hennessy Gold Cup as a brave Many Clouds outstayed his rivals to lift the Newbury showpiece on Saturday.
It was way back in 1990 Sherwood collected with Arctic Call and the Upper Lambourn trainer was on the roll of honour again as Many Clouds (8-1) demonstrated endless reserves of stamina to land the spoils under this year’s Grand National winning jockey Leighton Aspell.
Houblon Des Obeaux kept on for second with Merry King third and Monbeg Dude fourth.
“This is special, it doesn’t happen to me,” said an emotional Sherwood. “I’m just chuffed to bits. He’s a very, very tough horse. I thought we were beat and going to be second or third, but Leighton galvanised him and fair play to the horse, but it will take him a long time to get over that.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen him really wobbly. This was the plan.”
Coral and Paddy Power offer odds of 16-1 about Many Clouds for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but Sherwood believes his runner still has something to find if he is to make his mark in that kind of class.
He said: “He kept jumping and picking out a bit more and a bit more. It’ll take him a while to get over that. The Lexus (at Leopardstown over Christmas) will come too soon.
“He’s still got a bit to go to get up to Gold Cup class, but you’ve got to keep dreaming.
“I don’t mind if we go to the Gold Cup without a run.”
Many Clouds, owned by Trevor Hemmings, was buried in the pack on the first circuit as What A Warrior, Annacotty and Le Reve set a strong gallop in the early stages. However, their exertions soon told and they were swallowed up as the challengers were lined up in behind. Top-weight Houblon Des Obeaux looked a likely winner as he headed in front of Many Clouds in the straight, with Merry King coming between horses under champion jockey Tony McCoy.
Many Clouds found plenty for Aspell after jumping the last, though, edging ahead on the run-in before eventually pulling three and a quarter lengths clear.
Houblon Des Obeaux hung on for second by a length, with Monbeg Dude staying on with purpose for fourth.
Djakadam, the 5-1 favourite, could be spotted travelling well at one stage but when push came to shove, Willie Mullins’ charge had nothing left in the tank and finished out of the frame.
Aspell said: “I used his jumping just to get my position.
“I was very conscious not to be in front too early, this is his first time at the trip. It’s great to get the opportunity to ride these big winners.”
There was a sting in the tail for Aspell, however, as he was suspended for seven days (December 13-19) for using his whip above the permitted level and fined £1,800.
Houblon Des Obeaux’s trainer Venetia Williams was full of praise for her charge and would love to go for the Betfred Chletenham Gold Cup if the ground was soft.
She said: “When he jumped top the front going down the back, it told me he was going well and that the pace wasn’t strong enough. There were so many horses fairly close to each other at that stage. He’s all about stamina. He lost second place and then stayed on well again to claim it back. I’m absolutely thrilled.”