Grand National Review 2015: Many Clouds Reigns at 25/1

Leighton AspellThe 2015 Grand National gave trainer Oliver Sherwood his first, jockey Leighton Aspell his second and owner Trevor Hemmings his third Grand National victory.

It was also a good result for the bookies when the high-class 25/1 shot Many Clouds bounced back to form, carrying a big weight to victory in the Aintree showpiece. The bookmakers were worried until three out when Shutthefrontdoor, the heavily-backed 6/1 favourite carrying Tony McCoy in his swansong bid, started to fade leaving Many Clouds to stay on dourly under Aspell.

The winners beat the closing Saint Are (25/1) by nearly two lengths. Trained by the resurgent Oliver Sherwood, Many Clouds was shouldering 11 stone 9lb, giving his three closest pursuers more than a stone. Monbeg Dude (40/1) finished six lengths further back in third having appeared from nowhere under Liam Treadwell. He got the better of Alvarado (20/1) in the last 100 yards. Shutthefrontdoor, ridden by AP McCoy, finished 13 lengths behind the winner in fifth.

Another 25/1 Aintree winner for Aspell

For Aspell it was a remarkable second National victory in a row. He had cruised to victory in 2014 on Dr Newland’s Pineau De Re – another 25/1 shot in the Grand National odds. The last jockey to manage back-to-back victories was Brian Fletcher in the 1970s – but they were both on the legendary Red Rum. Bryan Marshall did the same but on different horses back in the 1950s but they were both trained by Vincent O’Brien. No jockey had won consecutive Nationals for different trainers since the 1880s.

Aspell appeared completely calm afterwards. He described Many Clouds as ‘awesome’ saying he had given him the best ride he had ever had over the National fences. Pineau De Re had scratched over plenty and rooted a couple.

Aspell admitted that he had asked the eight-year-old son of Cloudings plenty of questions. Many Clouds answered them positively, putting in one impressive leap that caused the usually impassive Aspell to shout ‘Ye ha’ on landing – he was wearing a head cam.

Having partnered Many Clouds in all of his 19 previous starts, Aspell wisely chose him over Pineau De Re (who finished nearly 60 lengths behind him in twelfth). They included his impressive win in the Hennessy and his disappointing run last time out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

First Hennessy winner to score at Aintree

Many Clouds became the first horse to succeed in the Grand National after triumphing in the Hennessy. In contrast, Aspell had had to encourage Many Clouds from the off at Prestbury Park. Sherwood was left scratching his head when no physical reason emerged for his poor performance. He had started as the joint second favourite but finished 25 lengths behind Coneygree in sixth.

After the National Many Clouds was obviously feeling the effects of his efforts and wobbled about worryingly during the post race interview. Aspell soon got off him and he was taken to be hosed down and checked over by the vets rather than into the winner’s enclosure.

His lass, Lisa, said that that was normal for him. Only after his lacklustre run in the Gold Cup was he fine afterwards. Sherwood was nonetheless very concerned for his horse’s welfare after realising that Aspell had got off him. Having been cooled off Many Clouds was paraded in the paddock later on, appearing to be fully recovered

Third winner for owner Trevor Hemmings

Many Clouds was not the first victor owned by Trevor Hemmings to fail to show up in the winner’s enclosure. His 2011 winner, Ballabriggs, also needed to be cooled off immediately. Only Hedgehunter carried his colours into the winner’s enclosure.

Hemmings described the win as ‘incredible’ adding ‘when the third comes along, I just can’t believe it – with three different horses.’ He was also full of praise for Sherwood saying that ‘the achievers are those that are usually quiet, confident and experienced. Thank you Oliver Sherwood.’

It was actually Hemmings who pushed for Many Clouds to join the 2015 Grand National line-up. Sherwood thought after his Gold Cup flop that he was probably ‘over the top’ and believed that it was a year too soon for him to tackle Aintree adding ‘What do I know about horses?’

No joy for McCoy

For the retiring champion jockey AP McCoy, Aintree failed to provide a fairytale ending. He was sent off as the favourite on Shutthefrontdoor in the colours of his boss, JP McManus, that he carried to victory in 2010. This eight-year-old 2014 Irish National winner trained by Jonjo O’Neill had decent claims but sentiment rather than sense dictated his ungenerous starting price of 6/1.

AP did have a very decent spin round. Shutthefrontdoor travelled well throughout and looked a likely challenger when he loomed upsides the leader, Many Clouds three from home. Unfortunately for McCoy and his many followers in the Grand National betting, his mount was found wanting in the stamina department when it mattered.

What happened in the race?

The 39 runners got away first time and there were relatively few early casualties although the Mick Fitzgerald-owned Gas Line Boy (66/1), Al Co (18/1) and Ely Brown (100/1) went at the first.  Rubi Light (50/1) came to grief at the third and Corrin Wood (66/1) blundered so badly that he was pulled up.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Rebel Rebellion (33/1) took the lead at the fourth whilst one of his more fancied stablemates, Unioniste (16/1) fell at the fence before Bechers. Only River Choice (100/1) went at Bechers, badly hampering Monbeg Dude.

The strongly fancied Balthazar King (17/2) fell heavily at the Canal Turn, bringing down Ruby Walsh’s Ballycasey (25/1). Meanwhile Rebel Rebellion continued to enjoy himself up front, with the grey Portrait King (50/1), Saint Are and Soll (9/1) not far behind him.

At the eighteenth fence Rebel Rebellion relinquished his lead to The Druids Nephew (10/1) and The Rainbow Hunter (33/1). McCoy was in about sixth place in front of Rocky Creek (8/1). Aspell had Many Clouds not far from the lead, hugging the inner.

As they approached the Canal Turn second time, Soll and The Druids Nephew shared the lead, closely followed by Shutthefrontdoor, Many Clouds and Portrait King. The fence was bypassed as Balthazar King was receiving treatment on the landing side. If any of the jockeys failed to spot the flag-waving steward they could not miss Walsh, conspicuously clad in the pink and green Ricci colours, also waving them round.

By Valentines The Druids Nephew had established a lead of two lengths with the favourite apparently cruising a couple of lengths behind him with Saint Are, Many Clouds and Soll in close attendance. At the next, the leader cleared the fence but slipped badly, losing his back end on landing and fell. Further back in the field The Rainbow Hunter also went. Many Clouds was left in the lead. Oscar Time (20/1) and Portrait King were in the second division whilst Rocky Creek was obviously not going to trouble the leaders.

Portrait King fell three out and McCoy started to work on Shutthefrontdoor but found little response. Many Clouds landed three lengths clear at the last from Saint Are and the tiring Shutthefrontdoor. Saint Are rallied on the run in under Paddy Brennan but it was too little too late.

After the race

While Many Clouds received a hero’s welcome back at Lambourn, Balthazar King was sent to an equine hospital where he was found to have a number of broken ribs. A full recovery was expected.  The oldest horse to line up, the Waley-Cohen’s 14-year-old Oscar Time who finished second in the 2011 National and fifteenth this time was retired from racing.

Nineteen horses finished and there were no serious casualties but a lot of punters were out of pocket after the market leaders in the 2015 Grand National betting odds failed to fire.

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