Tom Scudamore on Thistlecrack’s brilliance and his rides at Chepstow
Winning the King George yesterday on Thistlecrack means more than anything I’ve ever done before in my career. I’m in a real mood to enjoy the moment, given what we achieved together, but I’m also aware there is much more to be done and achieved with this extraordinary horse.
I was reflecting on all the winners that my Dad, my Grandad, and I have ridden over the years, and all the great horses that we’ve sat on, and realised that none of us had ever been associated with a horse as special as Thistlecrack. Of course Grandad won Gold Cups and King Georges, and Linwell was a very good horse, but he still wouldn’t have been as good as Thistlecrack.
It all went so smoothly. I felt completely relaxed walking into the paddock before the race. I felt prepared, and it was time to let the horse do the talking. I was confident that if I put him in the positions that he wanted me to put him in, he’d do the rest.
The race itself was really straightforward. I just wanted to get a good start, jump the first couple well, and he did that, and from then on he just took me where he wanted to go. He eased me to the front, and we never looked back. It was just awesome.
The only time I thought “oh bloody hell” was going down to the second last. I was just thinking “where have they all gone?” and I realised then I just had to get him from A To B over the last two fences, and that’s all I concentrated on at that moment.
I haven’t watched the race again yet, but there were no moments of alarm at any stage of the race. A few people have said to me that when I jumped the first ditch, they swore loudly. One of them was watching with his mother, and another was watching with her young son, and they both told me the way Thistlecrack stood off that fence just made them swear out loud.
Paddy made his move on Cue Card earlier than I expected but that was because he knew the only way he could possibly beat me was to try and put me under pressure, but we then proceeded to out-jump them all the way down the back straight.
His jumping was safe, exciting at times, but there were no alarms, and that’s the racehorse he is. He is just extraordinary. You rarely ever see a horse win the King George without ever coming off the bridle, or being nudged along. And you never see the King George being won by a first season novice chaser. I think it’s the first time the race has ever been won by a novice, and he won it on the bridle. It’s just incredible.
I ride Full Irish in the 2.20 at Chepstow. He was a short priced favourite at Hereford last time and was a bit disappointing. He’s got to be better than that. It’s probably one of the most competitive maiden hurdles that will be run this season but he’s a horse that they thought a lot of and hopefully he can bounce back to form.
When the ground at Chepstow is Good to soft rather than heavy it makes a big difference. Normally you go into this meeting thinking in terms of it being ‘survival of the fittest’. On soft or heavy ground here every race is a war of attrition. This better ground makes it less like that. It is a great track to ride around; a big galloping course, but it will be less of war of attrition than normal.
Definite Outcome is my ride in the 12.50. He was going well when he unseated at Aintree last time. He won the time before that, and he must have a chance. Ibis Du Rheu put up a decent chasing debut around Newbury and is a previous Cheltenham Festival winner and on all known form he is the one to beat.
I ride Dan Emmett in the 1.25 and he has a good record round Chepstow. Ignore his last run over fences, he just didn’t jump a twig and ran miles below form. He was second in this race last year. In what is a competitive race, he will have a very good chance.
In the Coral Welsh Grand National I ride Katkeau who is an in and out performer. He didn’t get very far at Newcastle the other day. H won a decent race at Uttoxeter in the summer beating Gas Line Boy and the form of the race has worked out really well. He was below form after that race but the ground was too quick for him that day. Three miles and five furlongs is probably stretching him a little. Having said that in a normal Welsh Grand National on heavy ground I’d think he’d struggle with the trip but on this easier ground, he has a much better chance of staying, and he has good form on this surface. Although he’s handicapped to the hilt, he seems in good form and would have each way prospects.
My Dad won the race four times, my Grandad won it, my brother Michael won it, I’m the only family member who hasn’t won it, so it’s a race that’s pretty high up in my pecking order because of the bragging rights. I grew up watching my Dad win on the likes of Bonanza Boy and Carvills Hill so it means an awful lot to me. In terms of my favourite Welsh Grand National winner, we obviously had a great affiliation with Bonanza Boy, who won it twice. He was a wonderful horse and the first to win back-to-back Welsh Grand Nationals. He won the first off ten stone, and then came back the following year and won off top weight. He was an awesome horse. However Carvills Hill’s demolition of a strong field tops the lot. I’ve never seen anything like that ever.
Native River will try to do the same. He is going to have to be a Gold Cup horse to do it. His Hennessy win was great, but if he wins this race off top weight, then it puts him right into the Gold Cup picture. There is no reason why he can’t. I think everything will suit him, and he’s a worthy favourite. He’s only six years old, he’s improving. He may not need to put up a Carvills Hill type performance but if they have Gold Cup pretensions he will need to be winning this. To be honest, if I couldn’t ride Katkeau then he would be the one I would want to ride. I can see it being a similar result to the Hennessy really with Native River and Carole’s Destrier battling it out. Carole’s Destrier was gaining hand over fist at the end at Newbury but I think that flattered him. He got outpaced at a vital time, and I think he’ll struggle to reverse the form today.
In the last at 3.50 I ride Cadeyrn for my brother. He is a very nice horse. He ran well first time out around Haydock. Don’t be surprised to see this horse put up an improved performance and I think he’s my best ride of the day.