It may seem ages away in the calendar but a selection of hardened followers of the world’s most famous steeplechase are already sharpening their pencils, ready to note down a particular piece of form/weight carrying performance that points to a fruitful tilt at Aintree’s showpiece next April.
With generous offers already available for betting on the Grand National 2016, it’s of no surprise that shrewd investors will be cashing in at huge ante-post prices on the successor to last year’s brave winner, Many Clouds.
Many Clouds started off his campaign prior to his colossal performance at Liverpool by turning over what was many peoples’ idea of a Cheltenham Gold Cup dark horse in Holywell over 2m4f at Carlisle.
Oliver Sherwood’s charge then romped to glory in the Hennessy at Newbury over 3m2f on tacky going, which would have without a doubt elongated what is already a stamina-sapping trip. Punters at this point were already approaching this piece of form with serious interest in relation to all the top staying chases, with key pointers displayed throughout the race result.
A subsequent triumph for Many Clouds in the BetBright Chase at Cheltenham (formerly the Argento) in January ahead of Smad Place, Dynaste and The Giant Bolster was for many seen as perhaps the end of the winning run for Trevor Hemmings’ gelding. After all, he couldn’t possibly handle any more wars of attrition, could he?
With a host of tough races all season potentially looking like catching up with this son of Cloudings, this prophecy was seemingly confirmed when finishing a tired horse when sixth in the Gold Cup behind crack-novice Coneygree. Was he now going to blend into obscurity alongside an ever-growing list? Not on your nelly!
Aintree arrived and with it came the welcome rays of spring sunshine. The dark coat of Sherwood’s stable star glistened as he travelled into contention five out. Was this 4m3f trip the plan all along, having got the job done so well through the glue pot that was the aforementioned Hennessy?
Waiting patiently at the finishing line were the deservedly smug ante-post punters, who were more than ready to collect the loot that they had dreamt of throughout the entirety of the winter gloom. Their trusty pencil still lodged safely behind their ears and fantastic footage available for which they can gloat upon:
As Many Clouds bravely bounded to an historic victory off 11st9lbs (the first horse to carry more than 11st 6lbs to success since the legendary Red Rum), thousands of unlucky horseracing fans reached for their stats and race form to try and find reasons why they too should have picked him. The answer was hugely apparent to all with the wagers placed back in late November duly landed!
Although horseracing has never been an exact science, there will always be huge indicators early on in the season as to who the chief protagonists will be for the major prizes. Guts, stamina, fluency and speed in the air will all stand you in good stead, but truth be told and as much as we don’t like to hear it, you need a bit of luck thrown in too as Sherwood himself will agree in a post-race interview.