Sherwood, Oliver

photo courtesy John Griffiths
Oliver Sherwood was born on 23 March, 1955: his parents, Nat & Heather, both both talented point-to-point riders, won many races between them in the 50s and 60s.

From them came Oliver's love of horses: his younger brother Simon was equally infatuated.

Oliver rode a total of 96 winners, not an insignificant total for a non-professional, and became the champion amateur in 1979-80.

Oliver won three times at the Cheltenham Festival: Sun Alliance Novices Hurdle 1979 (Venture to Cognac), Christie's Foxhunters' Chase 1980 (Rolls Rambler) and 1984 (Venture to Cognac). He had one unsuccessful assault on the National, finishing a respectable 8th on Venture to Cognac.

In 1984, he took out a trainer's licence and began sending out horses from his Rhonehurst Stables at Lambourn, the very stables from which Battleship had been sent to win the 1939 Grand National.
Oliver went on to amass over 1,000 winners, mostly over the jumps, including Festival victories by The West Awake, Rebel Song, Aldino, Young Pokey and Coulton. In addition, he famously won the 2015 Grand National with Many Clouds. 

Speaking about his role as a trainer, he said: "I  became a pupil assistant trainer to Gavin Pritchard Gordon on the flat in 1974, then moved to Ireland in 1975 to become assistant trainer to Arthur Moore I completed my "education"  as an assistant to Fred Winter here in Lambourn from 1978 until I began training in 1984.

"I pride myself in being a good judge of young stock and bought all the above with the exception of Coulton - plus Grade One winners - The Breener, Cruising Altitude, Tildarg, Large Action, Be Rude Not To, Him Of Praise, Lord Of The River, Hulysse Royal, Monkerhostin, Claymore, Eric's Charm, Manorson, Jaunty Flight, Puffin Billy and Mischievous Milly.
"I very much enjoy training mares and have trained the winner of the Mares Final at Newbury four times - Atrabates 1986, Northern Jinx 1989, Jaunty Flight 2008 and Argento Luna 2009."

He sent out the favourite, Sacred Path, for the 1988 National. It fell at the first.

Oliver is a keen cricketer and was captain of the Lambourn Xl before the intervention of Sunday racing. The Newmarket Xl, captained by William Haggas, were their greatest rivals.
He is also a lifelong Chelsea fan and gets to Stamford Bridge whenever circumstances allow.  

Oliver married Tarnya in September 1993 they have two children Sabrina aged 19 and Archie aged 16. Tarnya rode as a N.H. jockey prior to meeting Oliver and rode winners both point to pointing and then as a professional under rules (47 to be precise). The highlight of her career came in 1989 when riding in the Grand National on a horse called Numerate pulling up at the 21st fence. Hobbies include cricket, cooking and supporting Aston Villa, which gives both Oliver and the lads something to tease her about most Monday mornings!

On Wednesday, 23 November, 1994, Oliver Sherwood’s home was destroyed in a fire.

A Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue firecrew was called out at 8.13. pm. The cottage on Sheepdrove Road in Lambourn, suffered 50% fire damage to the roof and 40% to the ground floor.

Oliver, his wife, teenage son and daughter and dogs all escaped unhurt. The blaze was brought under control and put out by 1.45 am.

“It was probably the most frightening experience I’ve ever had in my life,” he  said later.
“I was watching football and my daughter went to have a bath. I suddenly heard screams and shouts and I ran upstairs. She said there’s a fire and I couldn’t even see anything. There was a fire at the top of the stairs, underneath the woodwork, the skirting boards and the floor boards.

Fire crews from Newbury, Hungerford and Lambourn as well as those from Oxfordshire and Wiltshire attended the scene.

On top of this, he was fined £3,000 over the  running of his horse Furrows in a novice chase and considered 'packing it all in.

Oliver Sherwood had, at the beginning, looked destined to be the champion trainer one day. Instead, he drifted towards the edge of the radar as National Hunt's power base condensed into the huge strings of trainers like Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson.

"Those were good times," he says. "But The West Awake, Rebel Song and Cruising Altitude were all owed by Christopher and Maggie Heath, and I had 17 horses for them at one stage. He got out [of racing after the collapse of Barings, so to go from 17 to nought was quite hard.

"You don't forget how to train, it's like a footballer who can't score goals, it's confidence as well and it's very important for the horse to get confidence too. You're only as good as the horses you've got and without the ammunition you can't win the big races."

Sherwood admires the success of the huge modern yards, but has no wish to share their approach. "It's factory farming a little bit, but they do a super job," he says. "I couldn't train 200 horses even if I had them, I couldn't do it and wouldn't want to do it. I think if I trained 200 horses now, I'd be in my grave a lot earlier than I probably should be.

"The big football teams are getting bigger, the big supermarkets are swallowing up the small people, and the middlemen suffer. If you've got a guy who's in the city and making good money and wants to buy some horses, where do they go to? They go to Nicky or Paul. But I do think it's changing a little bit in that some owners want to be slightly bigger fish in a slightly smaller pond."

Oliver went to public school at Radley. 'I was a hopeless academically' he admitted later.

Oliver married Fred Winter's daughter, Denise, in 1981. Denise's twin sister, Joanne, hanged herself at her home on Christmas Eve, 2011. It was Denise who discovered her sister's body.