Stable Talk Legendary trainer, Oliver Sherwood, tells Liam Headd how he longs for another win at the Cheltenham Festival. Photographs by Phil Cannings

Oliver Sherwood says Many Clouds was a ‘horse of a lifetime’ and that everyone at the Rhonehurst Stables, Lambourn, still misses the 2015 Grand National Winner.

Formerly owned by Trevor Hemmings, Many Clouds died when he collapsed after winning the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January 2017.

The win was one of many as Sherwood trained him to win the Grand National and the Hennessy Gold Cup [now known as the Ladbrokes Trophy] at Newbury in 2014.

Although it’s been three years since Many Clouds’ passing, the racing community still speak fondly of the Rhonehurst star.

Sherwood said: “We were very lucky at the time because we had three young horses who came at the same time with Deputy Dan and Puffin Billy there too.

“Puffin Billy was more precocious, but Many Clouds was always going to develop if you gave him the time.

“Trevor Hemmings allowed you to give him the time and he thrived in his work and developed each year.

“It was very satisfying when he won the Hennessy because that was the plan halfway through the season before, but nine times out of 10 with horses you make plans and they never come off.”

Despite winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, Sherwood wasn’t sure if the Grand National at Aintree would be the next step.

He said: “It worked and that was the fun part, but the Grand National was an afterthought as I wasn’t too keen because I thought it was a year too soon.

“Trevor wanted to give it a shot and the rest is history – he was a horse of a lifetime.

“We miss him even now. Not just as a racehorse, but as a person too because he was a very kind and honest horse.”

Sherwood has been based at Rhonehurst since becoming a trainer in 1984 and he has been thrilled with the success he has had.

He said: “It is all I have ever known and it has been a lucky yard for me as I built it up. When I bought it there were only 24 boxes and we extended it to 60 plus.

“In the early 90s it was a big yard, but now it’s average because trainers are now training over 100 horses and that’s not something I want to do.”

Sherwood’s interest in horses began as both his parents rode in point-to-point races.

He had football trials with Charlton Athletic and Colchester United, but turned to horseracing in 1974.

“I started off with Gavin Pritchard-Gordon in Newmarket before going to Ireland, where I had my first rides as an amateur.

"But Nicky [Henderson] started training, so I took over his job as Fred Winter’s assistant and came back to England and was champion amateur early on, riding just under 100 winners.

“It was the obvious transition to stop riding and start training, which is what I wanted to do, so I bought Rhonehurst and had a lot of success early on.”

When starting out as a trainer, Lambourn was the obvious place and Sherwood said: “I wouldn’t train anywhere else because I have been here two thirds of my life and I have seen a lot of good changes.

“It’s extraordinary because when I came here it was virtually all jump trainers, but now there are more flat trainers – it flows in cycles.

“It’s a lovely spot and geographically very handy because we’re an hour from London and very central, which really helps.”

Sherwood also praised Lambourn Open Day, which sees the racing community come together with the public in the village on Good Friday.

“The numbers stagger me,” he said. “We depend on the weather, but last year was a record year and we all get on very well because we’re a community.

“In racing, we all help each other and when things go wrong everyone pulls together.”

With the jumps season reaching a key point of the year, Sherwood said: “I am happy because up until Christmas time everything was going according to plan.

“I haven’t got the numbers like Nicky or Paul, but I am happy with the 60 boxes as long as they’re full.

“You want the quality and to find another Many Clouds, Puffin Billy or Deputy Dan is tough because it’s so competitive out there.

“We’re lacking a real star, but there are a lot of young horses who are waiting on the subs bench hoping to take over.

“It keeps me dreaming and it gets me going because I love training the young ones.

“However much they show or don’t show at home is different until you see them on a racecourse.”

With the Cheltenham Festival looming, Sherwood said he’d love to secure another winner there.

He said: “I haven’t had a festival winner for a while now and I’d love to have one more as it would be the icing on the cake.

“It is so competitive and I haven’t got anything in any of the championship races, but I may have something in the handicap races.

“We all love Cheltenham and we all want to have runners there, but you could finish seventh or eighth and miss out on a £30,000 race the week before because we wanted to go to Cheltenham.”


Photographs by Phil Cannings