OLIVER Sherwood is “living the dream” as Many Clouds attempts to become the first horse since Red Rum 42 years ago to win successive renewals of the Crabbie’s Grand National.
The nine-year-old is favourite for today’s 40-runner Aintree test after defying top-weight last year and confirming his wellbeing with a spring-heeled win in his Kelso prep race.
Victory would see jockey Leighton Aspell become the first rider to win three successive Nationals in the race’s history.
“I’m feeling very relaxed, chilled and happy with my horse,” said Sherwood last night.
“If it happens it happens and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. The main thing we want is for the horse to come back in one piece. The talking is very nearly done and at the moment, we’re still living the dream.”
The best National field ever to be assembled, the race has attracted horses of the calibre of dual King George winner Silviniaco Conti, who is one of six runners for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, and last year’s runner-up Saint Are.
A strong Irish challenge is headed by Sir Des Champs, which will be ridden by Nina Carberry after Ruby Walsh suffered two heavy falls yesterday and suffered a hairline fracture of his wrist.
After multiple Grade One winner Vautour crashed out in the feature chase, Walsh came to grief from Blood Cotil in an incident-packed Topham Trophy over the National fences, which claimed the lives of Gullinbursti and Minella Reception following a pile-up at Becher’s Brook when they were injured in the same incident.
The race, which saw 50-1 Yorkshire outsider Distime finish fourth for rookie Guiseley trainer Samantha Drake and her fiance Jonathan England, was won by Eastlake.
It was a third Topham win in four years for jockey Barry Geraghty, who partners Shutthefrontdoor in the National for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner JP McManus, the team behind Sir AP McCoy’s National triumph on Don’t Push It in 2010.
With the start time pushed back to 5.15pm in an attempt to boost TV viewing figures, bookmakers expect up to £350m to be gambled on the outcome of the world’s greatest steeplechase, which is due to feature four Yorkshire-based jockeys – Henry Brooke, Brian Hughes, James Reveley and Andrew Thornton.
Jon Ivan-Duke, spokesman for Leeds-based bookmaker William Hill, said the betting industry fears a Many Clouds victory. “He would be the first horse since Red Rum to win the race back-to-back and he could be even more costly than the Seventies legend,” he said.