Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
3m 2f 110y, Class 1
|Friday 13th March 2015|
Nov 29 Trainer Oliver Sherwood got his second Hennessy Gold Cup victory with Many Clouds winning at Newbury on November 29.
Ridden by Grand National winning jockey Leighton Aspell, Many Clouds came in first with Houblon Des Obeaux second, Merry King third and Monbeg Dude in fourth. It meant a second Hennessy Gold Cup for Sherwood after Arctic Call's success back in 1990.
Aspell, who retired in 2007 but came back to win this year's National with Pineau De Re, was delighted after the win.
He said: "This is special, it doesn't happen to me. I'm just chuffed to bits. He's a very, very tough horse. I'm just delighted for the whole team.
"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."
Aspell was behind on the first circuit with What A Warrior, Annacotty and Le Reve dominating the early stages. However, they faded and it seemed as if Houblon Des Obeaux was set to come through first.
But Many Clouds came through on the run-in, finishing three and a quarter lengths clear.
Djakadam had been the pre-race favourite but, though in contention at one stage, ran out of steam later in the race and finished well down the field.
Many Clouds, with his victory, saw his odds cut for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next year.
Nov 13 Champagne Fever won the Clonmel Oil Chase really well from Alderwood on November 13 to become joint antepost favourite.
Although disappointing on his comeback in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, the nine-year-old showed up well for a long way on Merseyside before fading into fifth on a track that does not bring his stamina into play.
Having finished second, fourth and third in the last three Gold Cups, the rest of his campaign is all about arriving at Cheltenham in March in peak condition, but quite which route he takes is still up in the air.
"He ran a proper race on a track he doesn't like," said Bridgwater.
"Now we have to work out how we get to our two main aims, which are the Argento Chase (Cheltenham, January 24) and the Gold Cup.
"If there's something between now and the Argento I'd like to get a run into him as he's a very hard horse to get fit.
"If he doesn't run by the time of the Argento he's likely to need the run again.
"He could run over hurdles, I suppose, as he's rated 20lb lower, but I'm not sure I want to do that."
Dec 09 Jonjo O'Neill reports potential candidate Holywell to be none the worse after unseating Richie McLernon at Aintree on December 6.
The seven-year-old struck gold at Cheltenham and Aintree last spring and was not disgraced on his return to action at Carlisle when third behind Hennessy winner Many Clouds and Peterborough Chase runner-up Eduard.
However, his jumping was already below par before he eventually unshipped his rider at the eighth fence on his return to Merseyside.
O'Neill said: "He's come back fine. It was no race really.
"I don't know where we'll go with him next. We'll wait and see."
The John Kiely-trained eight-year-old, winner of the Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in April, has been sidelined with a setback recently but could return for the big race on December 28.
One of the leading novice chasers last season, he also won the Topaz Novice Chase from Morning Assembly but was only sixth in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.
"He'll work at the weekend and we'll see how he is. If he's OK, he'll go there," said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.
"He had a bit of a mishap before Down Royal but it looks like he's back on track again."