Many Clouds set to have a crack at Timico Gold Cup

Many Clouds: among 16-1 market leaders in Grand National betting

PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos) Many Clouds set to have a crack at Gold Cup
By Lewis Porteous 9:20AM 5 JAN 2017

THISTLECRACK'S tour de force at Kempton on Boxing Day might have had bookmakers running for cover as they hastily revised their Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup markets, but one trainer refusing to run scared is Oliver Sherwood, who is not ruling stable star Many Clouds out of one or more clashes with jump racing's brightest star.

Sherwood was as impressed as anyone with Thistlecrack's poise and swagger in the King George, but that is not a reason to avoid the Gold Cup favourite, according to the Lambourn trainer, who said there was a "distinct possibility" the pair could meet not only in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at the end of the month but also in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

While the ultimate destination for Many Clouds is the Randox Health Grand National in April, his route there has yet to be finalised and Sherwood is seriously considering a Gold Cup challenge, especially as Many Clouds ran in the race before triumphing in the 2015 National.

"He'll certainly have an entry in the Gold Cup," said Sherwood. "At this stage I'm not going to be saying yea or nay, but the fact is he's going to have an entry.

"Who knows what the weather is going to do and the gap between Cheltenham and Aintree means you can run in both. I see that they mentioned the two races as a possibility for Don Poli, and it could be a distinct possibility. It worked for us two years ago."

The weather will dictate the next outing for Many Clouds, a general 50-1 chance for the Gold Cup and among the 16-1 market leaders for the National after an impressive success at Aintree a month ago. Sherwood's options include the Cotswold Chase on January 28, also the most likely next target for Thistlecrack.

Haydock's Peter Marsh Chase on Saturday fortnight or the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on February 11 are the alternatives.

Sherwood added: "The first one to come up is the Haydock race but he'll not race up there if it's bottomless, of that I can assure you. So I'd think the Cotswold Chase or Denman would be favourite."

Of a possible early-year clash with Thistlecrack, he added: "Others might run scared of Thistlecrack and there might be three runners against him in the Cotswold.

"You should never be frightened of one horse, even though he's been very impressive."

Thistlecrack nearing Coneygree's level

BHA handicapper Phil Smith has had his say on Thistlecrack's King George demolition job, handing the novice a mark of 171.

That leaves the Gold Cup favourite only a fraction shy of the level Coneygree achieved when winning the Cheltenham showpiece as a novice in 2015.

"Coneygree went to 172 after Cheltenham and one of the decisions I had to make this week was where should I rate Thistlecrack after his King George victory," Smith wrote in his blog. "I had to ask myself was Thistlecrack's achievement in beating a clearly below form Cue Card, Silviniaco Conti, Tea For Two and Josses Hill better than Coneygree's effort in the Gold Cup?

"In the 2015 Gold Cup Coneygree put up a terrific time in beating Djakadam, Road To Riches, Holywell, Many Clouds, Silviniaco Conti and Carlingford Lough all of whom had won their previous race. Both Many Clouds and Silviniaco Conti subsequently won their next race at Aintree, so the form was amazingly solid.

"I have Thistlecrack on 171, lower than his hurdle mark of 174 and lower than Coneygree at the end of his novice season. Higher however, than any novice we have had since the start of the Anglo-Irish Jumps Classification in 1999-2000 at this stage of their novice career."

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