01 Dec 14

I was fascinated by Oliver Sherwood’s comment after the victory of Many Clouds in last Saturday’s 58th Hennessy Gold Cup that he was worried that by giving his horse a prep race at Carlisle he had blown his chance of winning the big race. He had won more than £15,000 in that listed intermediate chase – for which his mark rose by 7lb – and I struggled to understand why you would not run for decent money.

Having a prep run has been crucial to a number of horses winning the important races over the last three weeks as the onset of very soft ground has perhaps been a little earlier than usual this year. I looked at all of the 0-140 or better handicaps over the last three weekends and the results were interesting in terms of prep races and what my team had done with the winners.

Charingworth – had finished second and gone up 4 lb before his win at Cheltenham

Bold Henry – had not run

Morito du Berlais – had won and gone up 15lb before his win at Cheltenham

Sam Winner – had not run

Caid du Berlais – had not run

Katkeau – had won and carried a 5lb penalty before winning his listed handicap

Garde la Victoire – had finished third and gone up 4lb before winning the Greatwood

Aubusson – had finished second and gone up 4lb before winning the Fixed Brush

According To Trev – had finished second and gone up 2lb before his Haydock victory

Niceonefrankie – had not run

Leviathan – had finished fourth and was left unchanged

Croco Bay – had finished sixth and been dropped 1lb before his runaway win at Ascot

L’Ami Serge – had not run

Tullyesker Hill – had won and gone up 9lb before his win at Newbury on Friday

No Buts – had finished fourth and had his mark left on 129 before his Newbury win

Royal Regatta – had finished third and had his mark left before Saturday’s win

Silsol – had not run

Many Clouds – had won and gone up 7lb before his Hennessy win

Monetaire – had finished third and gone up 3lb before winning the last race on Saturday

Hey Big Spender – had finished third and dropped 1lb before winning the Rehearsal again

Clearly many more of the above average handicap winners had benefitted from running already this season when faced with the soft/heavy ground we have had this month. Add to this the wins of Medinas, Irving, The New One, Silviniaco Conti, Uxizandre, Golden Doyen and Parlour Games who were all having their second run of the season when winning top grade non handicaps and you can see the advantage of having a prep run this autumn.

It has certainly been no disadvantage for horses to have run in their prep races rather than sitting on the sidelines in fear of what my team might do if they run well. The message is clear, “Get running”.

So what of Many Clouds? I have put him up 9lb for his win which might have been by further if his saddle hadn’t slipped. It still brings him out 1lb behind Houblon des Obeaux (161), who produced the best performance on the day. Merry King moves up 3lb to 141, which should ensure he gets a run in the Crabbie’s Grand National.

Meanwhile don’t give up on Djakadam. I have left him on the 142 that was agreed in the 2013-14 Anglo-Irish Jumps Classification. He ran well for a long way and either blew up having his first run for nearly seven months or didn’t stay the trip. He certainly jumped well for an inexperienced horse until he got tired.