Many Clouds: set to take on Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack on Saturday
PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
By Andrew King 7:15AM 25 JAN 2017
OLIVER SHERWOOD on Tuesday laid down the gauntlet to the Thistlecrack team by insisting he had no reason to be running scared of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite with his 2015 Grand National hero Many Clouds in Saturday’s BetBright Cotswold Chase.
Nothing has troubled Thistlecrack in four runs over fences that have seen the Colin Tizzard-trained novice storm off with the King George and take charge of the Gold Cup market at a top-priced even-money.
But Sherwood believes Many Clouds, winner of the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase two years ago, can exploit any inexperience in his nine-year-old rival.
He said: “Thistlecrack has been very, very impressive in all his chases this season but he’s not had the experience Many Clouds has and we’re not going to Cheltenham on Saturday for a canter round.
That’s the plan subject to topping and tailing it with Mick Meagher [racing manager to owner Trevor Hemmings].
“As my old mentor Fred Winter once said ‘you should never be frightened off by one horse’ and we’ll not be. Many Clouds is a relatively fresh horse this season and if he gave Thistlecrack a race for his money we’d have to think about going for the Gold Cup in March.”
Many Clouds, who finished second in the Cotswold last season, returned to action after a breathing operation to win impressively at Aintree last month.
Sherwood added: “I suppose on what we’ve seen of Thistlecrack so far we might struggle to beat him, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility as my horse knows how to gallop all the way to the line.”
Like Many Clouds, Smad Place, last year’s Cotswold Chase winner, is a general 5-1 chance to beat Thistlecrack in a maximum field of 11, including the Paul Nicholls-trained pair Le Mercurey and Silviniaco Conti.
The champion trainer said: “The intention is to run one of them and at present I’d say Le Mercurey is the more likely, but if the race looked like cutting up to only handful or so of runners on Friday morning there is every chance Silviniaco Conti might take his chance as well.”
Frost covers considered
Cheltenham’s clerk of the course Simon Claisse admitted he might have to consider deploying frost covers on Wednesday even though he reported all courses at Prestbury Park were raceable on Monday and Tuesday.
He said: “We’re expecting some overnight frosts, with the forecast on Thursday looking particularly cold, and we will take a view to see if we need to lay down the covers, especially if there’s any possibility of a delay in this cold air we have at present moving away.”
He added: “We’re currently good to soft on both the hurdles and chase courses, while it is good and good to soft in places on the cross-country circuit.
“As far as Saturday is concerned there are conflicting forecasts about how much rain we might get on Friday evening and Saturday morning of between 3mm and 5mm – if that fell we might end up being soft by the time of racing.”