There is a reason the 2015 Grand National victor Many Clouds topped the poll by 400 votes to clinch the Horse & Hound Equine Personality of the Year title — he’s tough, he never gives less than 110%, he’s beautiful to look at and he has plenty of charisma to match.
The people who know him best told H&H what makes the talented gelding so special.
Stable name: Clouds
Owner: Trevor Hemmings
Breeder: Aidan Aherne
Major wins: Grand National at Aintree (2015); Betbright Cup Chase at Cheltenham (2015); Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury (2014).
Oliver Sherwood — the trainer
The Lambourn-based trainer first set eyes on Clouds as an unbroken three-year-old. “I picked him out of a field at Trevor Hemmings’ and from day one thought he was special.
“At 17hh, he’s a big horse, a proverbial gentle giant but he always does what he is told. He can take quite a keen hold on the gallops but he would jump off a cliff for you.
“After a race he is known to wobble — he just pushes himself to the limit. We do have an equine pool at the yard but we don’t swim him because it has made him colic before. He is an absolute joy to train and have in the yard — he acts like he is the king.”
Leighton Aspell — the jockey
Clouds helped the 39-year-old win his second consecutive Grand National last year — the Irishman has partnered the gelding in every race under Rules to date.
“When he was a young horse he was nervous but also very keen, he had too much energy and would over-do things. We spent time working on settling him in races. When he matured we increased the distance he ran over and he became a better ride.
“Taking him over fences was the making of him. Now he is nice and relaxed in his races, he’s fast and a very good jumper. Early on in his career he was very exuberant and if he’d ever miscalculated, it could have ended badly — but luckily he’s always been good at measuring his fences.”
Leighton goes to Oliver’s once a week to school the horses. “Early on in the season Clouds would be schooled three to four times a week, but he doesn’t need to now — he knows what he’s doing, he’d have a pop maybe once before a race.
“He really enjoyed his Grand National experience, everything went to plan although we did have one moment when a loose horse ran across us on the approach to the Chair, causing him to take his eye off the fence.”
Lisa Kozak — the travelling head girl
As part of her role, Lisa travels to the races with Oliver’s horses, including the day Clouds triumphed at Aintree last April.
“Nathan Horrocks rides him at home but I am sometimes lucky enough to get on him too. He’s a gentle giant — he can be strong but he is never naughty and wouldn’t do anything bad.
“Up until 18 months ago he was actually quite a nervous horse in his stable and around people but since his success he’s grown in confidence, he knows he is special. I am so proud of him, when he won at Aintree it took a while to sink in.”
On the day of his National win, the Aintree team straightaway put a decal on the horsebox saying ‘Grand National winner Many Clouds’ — a tradition each year for every National winner.
“On the drive home we had cars beeping and flashing at us the whole way! Even now when I pull into a petrol station people ask me how Clouds is. His success and recognition like this award really boosts moral among the team, it makes all those wet and cold mornings worth it.
“He likes his apples and polos and expects that every visitor to the yard is there to see him. He also loves a good neck scratch and is like an aeroplane to ride at home — I call him ‘the black aeroplane”.