Oliver Sherwood will be as pleased as anybody to see Crabbie’s Grand National hero Many Clouds make his seasonal reappearance in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.
Today’s pipe-opener is the prelude to the Trevor Hemmings-owned Aintree hero attempting to defend the Hennessy Gold Cup at newbury on November 28, and the trainer is relieved that the ground has softened up.
Many Clouds is no stranger to Wetherby – he won a three-runner novice chase at the track in December 2013.
“I’m glad the rain’s arrived. It will inconvenience the others more than us,” he said.
“He’s ready to rock and roll but he’s not tuned to the minute. It’s a prep run, as it was last year (at Carlisle) before the Hennessy.
“He’s even giving weight away in these conditions races now. He’s in great order. We haven’t missed a beat with him since he’s been back. I’m looking forward to getting back on the track and see how he does. All being well it will be the Hennessy after this.”
Leighton Aspell, who has ridden Many Clouds in his previous 20 races, said: “He’s very well and we’re really looking forward to it. He’s in tip-top shape.”
Colin Tizzard has his fingers firmly crossed his top-class performer Cue Card is finally over the troubles that have dogged him for two years. A breathing problem caused his latest hiccup, but the four-times Grade One winner gave the right signals with two decent runs in the spring.
“I thought his performances at Aintree and Punchestown were encouraging,” said Tizzard who has booked Paddy Brennan for riding duties.
“He was obviously struggling with a trapped epiglottis before that and we think he is much better this season, although we have to wait until he runs.
“We worked four horses around Wincanton, including a couple of 130-rated horses, and he was far, far superior to them. We are hopeful.”
Jonjo O’Neill believes a day out to Wetherby for their fixture earlier in October has prepared Holywell for a proper return to action.
The Jackdaws Castle trainer describes the eight-year-old as “a lazy little monkey”, but there is no doubting his ability.
Holywell, who recorded his first chase win at Catterick in January 2014, was fourth to Coneygree in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“We took him to Wetherby at their last meeting for a gallop,” said O’Neill. “It just gets them excited, a day at the races. The loudspeaker and everything just gets them motivated that little bit more. He’s a lazy little monkey, really. On a daily basis he’ll only do what he has to do.”
Bryan Cooper is once again looking forward to getting the leg-up on the brilliant Don Cossack in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Gordon Elliott’s eight-year-old won six races during a magnificent season last time, and rounded off his campaign with excellent displays in the Melling Chase at Aintree and the Punchestown Gold Cup.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup pretender looked as good as ever when making a successful reappearance at Punchestown a little over a fortnight ago and faces just three opponents on his return to Grade One level.
Cooper said: “It’s a Grade One, but he’s the one to beat. He had to be impressive in Punchestown.”
AP McCoy is to join Channel Four Racing this month as the programme looks to stem the decline in its viewing figures.
The 20-times champion rider’s first broadcast will be on November 14 at Cheltenham’s Open meeting.
Despite expressing reservations about the programme’s coverage, he will now work on several of Channel Four’s premier racedays.
McCoy said: “I’ve been very lucky and privileged to have enjoyed a fantastic career as a jump jockey.
“I’m looking forward to working with Channel Four over the next year and delighted to be back at some of the main festivals with a top presentation team.”