Friday 16 March 2018

Oliver Sherwood: Renaissance Man

Nowadays, Oliver Sherwood is probably best known as the trainer of Many Clouds, winner of 10 races, including the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2014 and the Grand National in 2015. Sherwood had trained his first winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup, Arctic Call, 24 years earlier, but following Many Clouds’ 3¼-length defeat of Houblon Des Obeaux at Newbury he said, tearfully, “There’s been a few bare patches in the last 10 years. You lose confidence sometimes when things are not going right, but any trainer will tell you, you’re only as good as the soldiers you go to war with.”

Many Clouds’ subsequent victory in the Grand National has been well chronicled, as has his untimely death, due to severe pulmonary haemorrhage, at Cheltenham less than two years later. Sherwood paid tribute to the horse that, almost single-handedly, put him back in the big time, saying, “We've got to look forward and not look back. He’s been the horse of a lifetime and I always said he would die for you and he's died for me and the team today doing what he does best.”

Sherwood first took out a training licence in his own right in 1984, but had previously worked as pupil assistant to Gavin Pritchard in Newmarket and assistant trainer to Arthur Moore in Co. Kildare and Fred Winter in Lambourn. During six years under the tutelage of Winter at his famous Uplands yard, Sherwood pursued a parallel career as a highly competent amateur rider. He became champion amateur in 1979/80 and rode a total of 96 winners, including three at the Cheltenham Festival.

Sherwood subsequently bought nearby Rhonehurst Stables and saddled his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, The West Awake, in the Sun Alliance Novice Hurdle in 1987. Fast forward three decades or so and Sherwood has saddled over 1,000 winners, including five more at the Cheltenham Festival. Aside from high-profile victories in the Hennessy Gold Cup (twice) and the Grand National, he has won the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham (three times), the Challow Hurdle at Newbury (three times) and the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.

According to former trainer Henrietta Knight, Sherwood “has a great eye for future National Hunt horses”, and he himself admits, “I love buying the unraced store horse and bringing them along slowly. That’s the way I was brought up and it’s what I know best.”

His training methods may not be as fashionable as they once were but Sherwood, 62, remains as competitive as ever and still harbours a desire to return to the top ten National Hunt trainers in the country.

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