On the morning of the Grand National, with my bets placed 24 hours earlier, I looked at the prices and saw Many Clouds was 40/1. I fell off my chair in surprise. How could the Hennessy Gold Cup winner be bigger than 20/1, let alone available at twice that price?
His flop in the Cheltenham Gold Cup was one reason. The weight he carried another. No horse since Red Rum had won the National carrying 11 stone and 9 pounds. And that was my chief concern. But I’m always looking for potential value. Even in a race as competitive as this one. Even late in the day, I ask myself: has the market got one wrong?
At this point I must enter the confession box. On Saturday morning, as an afterthought, I threw a fiver each way on Many Clouds. On the very rare occasion that I have a late bet, I feel guilty doing so. After all, I’d made my mind up on Rocky Creek to win (before Pricewise announced he too favoured that one) and I’d also put my money where my mouth was, each way, on Balthazar King (get well soon, fella).
But, at 40/1 Many Clouds was overpriced. I was tempted in. In this instance the late gamble paid off. No other horse I backed returned profit. Many Clouds delivered me £250. I should have tweeted (@betonsportstips) that morning that I had committed the cardinal sin of punters. I’d been sucked in by the hype and, of course, by that price. Had I tweeted the late bet no doubt someone would have said: “Blimey! How many horses are you betting on?”
Sometimes in this game, even when you win… you can’t win!
Anyway, sod the guilt. It’s my money and I was right in one regard. The price of 40/1 I took was wrong. It was twice as big as it should have been. I’d argue the SP of 25/1 was still insulting to a horse that put that Gold Cup disappointment behind him and jumped the Aintree fences as foot perfect as any horse I have seen.
Trainer Sherwood said that Many Clouds “must have got out of bed on the wrong side at Cheltenham.” Sherwood didn’t want to enter the horse into the Grand National until 2016. He was persuaded to do so by the ever enthusiastic man of racing, owner Trevor Hemmings. Many Clouds was the third horse he has owned that won the Grand National. Hemmings displays the enthusiasm racing requires and I was delighted for him.
And let’s not forget the jockey. Some punters didn’t back Many Clouds because jockeys simply do not win back-to-back Grand Nationals. At least very rarely. So the odds were stacked against the modest Leighton Aspell riding the winner in 2015, as he had in 2014. Come on! How likely was that to happen?
He did it! The down to earth Aspell only went and won the Grand National two years running.
He must have known he was in with a serious chance when Many Clouds jumped the demanding fences as though they were minor obstacles. A late fall by the well backed The Druid’s Nephew ensured that challenger left the stage. Try as he might, the retiring AP McCoy couldn’t get Shutthefrontdoor to rally and catch an out and out stayer such as Many Clouds.
Some years, silly as it may sound, the best horse on the day does not win the Grand National. Many Clouds was the best horse in the race and deservedly landed the 2015 running of the Crabbie’s Grand National.
And, on Monday, comes news from trainer Philip Hobbs that his Balthazar King appears to be recovering from the fall that resulted in the horse receiving two broken ribs.
Sadly, there were casualties in other races at Aintree (Seedling and Balder Succes). My condolences go out to the connections of each horse, especially the stable staff who so loved and cared for those horses.
But this was the third consecutive Grand National without a fatality. Proof positve that the alterations made to the fences has been a change for the better.
I know that some people think the Grand National has been watered down. It didn’t look or feel that way to me. I loathe seeing horses fall. Any move that reduces the chance of a horse dying, while retaining the drama of the race, is good with me. There will be fatalities in the future. Fatal accidents happen. But there will be nothing like the number of decades past. Rejoice, I say.
Aintree staged a splendid advertsiement for a great sport that is too often under the cosh. A sell out crowd under sunny skies. There were a few clouds at Aintree on Saturday. But only one caught the eye. Many Clouds. The right horse won. Well done to all concerned.
I’m off to confession.