"Last year he just didn't fire and he disappointed me," Sherwood said yesterday. "He had only three runs and always coughed after working. We scoped and blood-tested him more times than we had hot dinners but couldn't find anything.
"This year he's come back to form and he's much more interested. As a result of all that he was well-handicapped at the start of the year. He does nothing in front and it always looks like hard work. He's only ever going to win his races by three or four lengths so he looks after his own handicap mark."
A measure of just how well Him Of Praise (next best 3.10) is treated can be drawn from his relationship with the Welsh National runner-up, Dom Samourai. When the pair met at Haydock in November, Him Of Praise beat the grey by half a length. He now finds himself 6lb better off. "On the book we have the beating of Don Samourai and I'd be disappointed if we didn't beat him again," Sherwood said. "He's in great order and we couldn't be more happy with him."
Sherwood runs another luminary, Buddy Marvel, in an appealing Tolworth Hurdle. The four-year-old won both his starts over hurdles in Ireland before being purchased by Robert Ogden. They did not give him to the owner for packet tops. Buddy Marvel has carried on the good work over here. "He's a bonny horse who's sharper and come on for his win at Lingfield," Sherwood said. "We're climbing the ladder quietly with him and we hope one day he might be a Champion Hurdle horse."
More than one runner fits that description in today's race. Grey Shot, who broke the course record in the Jockey Club Cup at Newmarket this autumn, impressed sufficiently on his hurdling debut to persuade the Tote to make him 12-1 for this year's Champion. There is a doubt about how he will handle the sludge so the value could lie with a horse who has finally reproduced the wonderful things he does on the gallops, Nigel Twiston- Davies's UPGRADE (nap 2.35).
There is televised racing too from Leopardstown, where the Ladbroke Hurdle has taken on the significance of a protected event as it is screened on both the BBC and Channel 4. Moorish might be best of the British but the winner is likely to be Arctic Weather (2.25), who finished second to Atone in this race four years ago.
NB: Him Of Praise