Oliver Sherwood is to bring his near 40-year training career to a close and will take on the role of assistant to Harry Derham after Lambourn’s Grand National-winning stalwart concluded his business is no longer sustainable.
Sherwood, who famously sent out Many Clouds to win the Aintree spectacular for Trevor Hemmings eight years ago, will run a small number of horses through the summer before closing the book on a marathon training stretch that yielded victories in a host of major races, including six at the Cheltenham Festival.
Speaking to the Racing Post, the 68-year-old also referenced the recent death of close friend Richard Aston as a factor in his decision to stop training. Sherwood was informed last April that after six bouts of chemotherapy he was free of cancer, the disease that claimed leading breeder and consignor Aston.
As well as Many Clouds – who also won the Hennessy Gold Cup and two runnings of Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase, after the second of which he tragically collapsed and died – Sherwood’s other jumps stars included Large Action, Coulton and Cenkos, while Rebel Song and The West Awake landed the Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle and Sun Alliance Chase on the same day at Cheltenham in 1988.
“In modern jump racing it’s all about numbers,” said Sherwood. “At the end of last season we had 30 to 35 horses, which sadly isn’t enough, and I’ve had no orders to buy horses, so there was nothing to replace the ones we were selling. The sums weren’t adding up, end of story, so we’ve had to be sensible.
Oliver Sherwood with his Grand National winner Many CloudsCredit: John Grossick
“When I took over from Nicky Henderson as Fred Winter’s assistant, Fred was champion trainer with 50 horses. Nowadays that would represent a middle-size yard. New owners coming into the game also tend to go towards the young brigade of trainers unless you’re Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls or Willie Mullins.
“If someone sent me 100 horses tomorrow I would carry on, but you have to start another chapter at some stage of your life, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Sherwood and wife Tarnya are already looking forward to visiting their son Archie in New Zealand as part of a revised attitude that has been influenced by the loss of Goldford Stud co-owner Aston.
“Never when I was ill did I think I was going to die but what happened to Richard frightened the life out of me,” said Sherwood.
“He was diagnosed towards the end of February and died two months later. We could see he didn’t look right when we stayed with Richard and his wife Sally the night before the National weights lunch. I told him if he didn’t go to see someone, we wouldn’t stay with them for Aintree, as we had for 30 years. He did see someone but it was all too late. That was horrendous.”
Sherwood added: “I’m going to be 70 in 18 months’ time. I don’t want my life to go by without me having done anything apart from training horses, much as I love it. However, I couldn’t just do nothing, which is why I’m going to work for Harry Derham as his assistant. We get on very well, he’s a good guy and hungry for success.”
Derham, soon poised to move from a temporary base in Lambourn to his new purpose-built yard in Boxford, near Newbury, spoke with Sherwood’s team members on Saturday. Sherwood, who hopes his staff and owners will move with him to join Derham, is leaving a vacancy at the Charlie Mann-owned 50-box Neardown Stables, to which he relocated in the spring of 2021 having previously spent 37 years only half a mile away at Rhonehurst.
“The greatest thing about being a trainer has been working with horses – and I’ll still be doing that with Harry,” said Sherwood, who described his wife, family, staff and owners as “complete rocks” through his illness and now the decision to relinquish his licence.
“Up to a point, anybody can train horses,” he added. “The fascination comes from trying to get inside their heads. They are all individuals with their own little quirks and idiosyncrasies.
“I really have been very spoiled over the years, but Clouds winning the National would undoubtedly be the highlight. I’ve trained some good horses and had some fantastic days. I’ll be able to look back on it all with pride.”
Courtesy of Racing Post