Tom Scudamore reflects on the jumps season: ‘I think I’m riding better than ever and have no regrets at how things went.’
Coral ambassador reflects on the jumps season and looks ahead to his ride at Sandown on Saturday
As we reach the final day of the British jumps season, I have to look back on it with plenty of satisfaction.
Big race wins on Cloth Cap, Kingswell Theatre, Adagio and Mighty Thunder stand out for various reasons, while importantly I can look back in the knowledge that I didn’t leave anything behind on the track this season.
There were no ‘what if?’ moments, things I did, or didn’t, do that I might look back at with regret now, and for a professional sportsman that’s important. I also think I’m riding better than ever, a lot of that comes with experience, and I’m still loving riding as much as ever, which again is so important.
In terms of my own personal highlights, I’ve mentioned the four horses above. Cloth Cap was a wonderful spare ride to pick up ahead of the Ladbrokes Trophy, and victory that day really set the tone for the season. It was the complete performance at Newbury, he jumped, he galloped, he stayed the trip well, for a jump jockey that’s a huge thrill. He was then superb again at Kelso, and while it didn’t work out for him at Aintree, it was still a privilege to be on board the favourite for the Grand National, and I have to thank Mr Hemmings [owner] for the opportunity.
Back in November I had another great day when Kingswell Theatre won around Cheltenham’s cross-country course. This was very much a family affair as he’s trained by my brother Michael, and he’s also a huge favourite of my daughter Margot, so that victory meant an awful lot to us all.
Another big day came at Chepstow in the New Year, when Adagio won the Grade One Coral Finale Hurdle. Grade One winners are always special, and it was even more so to do it for my number one supporter and ally in Dave [Pipe], and two great owners in Bryan Drew and Caroline Tisdall.
Adagio went on to finish second at both Cheltenham and Aintree this spring, which is the mark of a top class horse, and we’ve so much to look forward to with him, he could make up into a Champion Hurdle prospect, but he also has the scope and constitution to go chasing if connections choose to.
‘Coral Scottish Grand National was extra special to win’
My final highlight came just last weekend, on Mighty Thunder in the Coral Scottish National. Again there was a big family involvement, but firstly I have to say that it’s never pleasant picking up a spare ride because of another’s jockey’s injury, but for Blair [Campbell], he does have a really nice ride to look forward to next season.
Before the race you have to try to put the emotion out of your mind as you have a job to do, but afterwards it was extra special to ride this winner for Lucinda [Russell] and dad [Peter Scudamore]. As a proud Scot, and in dad’s case a proud adopted Scotsman!, I know this victory meant so much to Lucinda, and for me as a jockey it’s an important race to win. It was a shame there were no fans there to watch it, although I’m not sure I’d have got home so soon if there had been, such would have been the celebrations!
I can’t look back on this season without mentioning three other stars, one equine and two human and all connected. Honeysuckle was the star horse of the season, maintaining her unbeaten record in the Champion Hurdle. She will run at Punchestown next week, but it’s a measure of how talented she is, and could be, that there is talk of her even being a Gold Cup horse in the future. Dawn Run of course is the only horse to have completed that famous Cheltenham double, and if Honeysuckle could emulate her fellow mare, what a story that would be.
Honeysuckle’s trainer, Henry De Bromhead, has had what can only be called an extraordinary season. To become the first trainer to win the big three of Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at the same Cheltenham Festival was remarkable, but to then follow up with a Grand National win – and for good measure he had a 1, 2 in the last two of those races – means his achievements have to be put alongside the great Vincent O’Brien’s success in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and Michael Dickinson’s ‘Famous Five’ in the 1983 Gold Cup.
‘Rachael Blackmore is a great ambassador for the sport’
Incredibly, Henry’s golden run has been overshadowed somewhat, which would seem crazy until you consider why. It’s because the undoubted star of the season has to be Rachael Blackmore.
Rachael has been absolutely fantastic, we all know she was the first female rider to be top jockey at the Festival, we all know she made history when winning the National, but above all else, she is just a top, top class jockey, and a wonderful ambassador for the sport, at a time when it was most needed. Unlike some she lets her deeds on the track do the talking, and it shouldn’t be forgotten how hard she has worked to get to this position, she’s not been an overnight success.
She really is my kind of person, there’s no side to her, what you see is what you get, she just gets on with it, conducts herself brilliantly, and that makes her a wonderful role model. As a fellow rider, we don’t see her as a female jockey, she’s just a top class rival. She’s a credit to the sport, to her family, and most of all to herself, she deserves all the success she’s had.
Although this is the final day of the British jumps season, the new season starts again soon enough, and I will be keeping busy through the summer months. One horse I’m hoping will give us some fun is Ajax Tavern, trained by my brother [Michael]. He’s only had the one run over hurdles and while he was a bit disappointing that day, as an ex-flat horse I’m sure he’ll appreciate better ground and hopefully there will be plenty more to come from him.
Tom Scudamore rides Golan Fortune in the 15:40 at Sandown on Saturday
I ride Golan Fortune in the day’s big handicap chase. He ran a nice race to finish fourth in the Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing day, and may have found the four miles plus trip too far at Uttoxeter last time out.
On the pick of his form he’s certainly not without a chance, and in a season when some of my biggest wins have come on spare rides I’ve picked up, this fellow could be another one.