Horses kept me sane during cancer. Today will be special
Sherwood relishing a Bumper afternoon
OLIVER Sherwood’s faith in Queens Gamble has not been dented by her lasttimeout defeat at Market rasen, as the exciting mare is pitted against the best Ireland can muster in today’s Champion Bumper.
Victory for Johnny Burke’s mount will be extra special for trainer Sherwood, given Queens Gamble helped keep up his spirits during draining cancer treatment.
Now in remission, Sherwood draws favourable comparisons between Queens Gamble, who has won on both her starts at Cheltenham, at this early stage of her career with his 2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds and Large Action, the 1995 Champion Hurdle runner-up.
The Lambourn trainer said: ‘She is the best mare I have trained and I have trained a few good mares. Many Clouds and Large Action also ran in the Champion Bumper and she is on a par with them but they are totally different horses.
‘No jockey or trainer likes it when a horse is beaten and I expected her to win at Market rasen but we got the tactics wrong that day — Johnny would be the first to admit it. He kicked too soon, too far out.
Also Market rasen compared to Cheltenham is chalk and cheese. The rest of them rode their race to get her beaten and succeeded. She is a mare who has got bags of toe. I don’t know why Cheltenham suits her and it will be a different ball game taking on the boys but we have nothing to lose.
‘I have been training for 38 years and you can never go to Cheltenham confident. If she gets placed I will be delighted, if she wins I will be ecstatic.’
While Sherwood was being treated for stage four lymphoma, he did not go racing between the debut victory of Queens Gamble at Cheltenham in April 2022 and her successful return to the track last November. The 67- year- old
said: ‘ People are worse off than me and you have to play with the cards you are dealt. My wife, Tarnya, was a very good nurse and I came through it. Touch wood, everything is tickety boo.
‘What Jonjo O’Neill and Bob Champion went through when they had cancer, it was much different to what I had to do. It was archaic in their day — you were given a chemo injection and a bucket to be sick in.
‘I didn’t have that. I felt s*** for a few months. Horses are great therapy and it kept me sane going to see them. There were only a few days when I felt too s***. Some people are stuck looking at four walls all the time.’
Sherwood has had six Festival wins but you have to go back to Coulton in the 1995 Cathcart Chase for the last one.
He said: ‘I haven’t got the horsepower of Nicky Henderson or Paul Nicholls but I have had six Festival winners and to get another one would be fantastic.’