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Copper Coin realises long-term ambition for Scudamore team

Copper Coin delivered the bravest of victories in Huntingdon’s John Bigg “Oxo” Handicap Chase – a race of “massive significance” to trainer and jockey Michael and Tom Scudamore.

The brothers have long dreamt of joining forces to win the race which bears the name of their grandfather Michael’s 1959 Grand National winner – and despite trailing the field for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, Copper Coin had read the romantics’ script as well.

The Scudamores, sons of multiple champion jockey Peter, were capping a memorable weekend too – following their exploits on Saturday at Kelso, where Tom rode Grand National favourite Cloth Cap to a decisive Listed victory and Michael’s Do Your Job was second in a Grade Two novice hurdle.

The success which meant most, though, was reserved for Huntingdon – the culmination of years of hopes and more recently months of planning with the lightly-raced eight-year-old.

“It’s obviously not the biggest race in the world for a lot of people – especially with the week after next round the corner (at the Cheltenham Festival),” said Herefordshire trainer Scudamore, after Copper Coin’s 7-1 victory by a tenacious half-length.

“But obviously, from a family point of view, it’s a race of massive significance to us.

“Tom and I have just been saying it’s a race we’ve wanted to win ever since I’ve had my licence – 10, 15 years or so.”

Copper Coin was cast adrift of the eight-strong field at one stage, and still last as they turned for home – but Scudamore gradually made up ground before challenging at the last and seeing off Risk And Roll close home.

“He’s a wonderful horse anyway – he’s got such character, always causing havoc when he’s out and about being ridden,” Scudamore added.

“He’ll definitely have a big picture on the wall from now, I imagine!

“I’ve never had anything quite right to come for (this race). (But) it’s something we’ve had in our minds for some time with this horse, and it’s amazing it’s all come together really.”

The trainer could hardly be confident mid-race, but he still had faith both horse and jockey were not done with.

“He’s obviously had to be really brave today,” he added.

“The horse has had plenty of problems – he hasn’t had a lot of races in his life, and there have been a lot of gaps between them.

“He was bred by the owners as well. So to get his first win, and do it in a race like this, is just great for everyone.

Tom Scudamore has a favourite's chance in the Grand National after his weekend success on Cloth Cap
Tom Scudamore has a favourite’s chance in the Grand National after his weekend success on Cloth Cap (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Tom is riding exceptionally well, and has done for a number of years.

“I think he’s riding as well as anybody out there at the moment.

“He’s proven it again today.”

He had to challenge from the most unpromising of positions, however.

“It didn’t look likely early, and he was just a little bit sticky,” said Scudamore.

“But Tom just never moved on him, rode him with loads of confidence – and that’s shown at the end.

“With a circuit to go, he was a bit sticky again at the one after the ditch – and he dropped off the back by four and a half lengths.

“You thought then ‘it’s a long way back from here’.

“But Tom never panicked, and every time he did just ask a little bit more, the horse responded.

“Then turning for home, you just thought ‘he could go and run a nice race here and be third, fourth or fifth’. Actually, with the lay-off he’d had, you’d probably take that.

“But when he was bang there after the last, and the guts he had to show up the run-in, all credit to the horse.”

Copper Coin has had just nine career starts, and this was his second over fences.

Scudamore said: “He’s had his issues and injuries and things, and he was just unbelievably brave to really stick his neck out and get his nose in front when it really mattered.

“It’s obviously extra special to team up (here) – and we’re very, very proud to have got it right today.”

Theatre targeting another winning Cheltenham performance

Michael Scudamore is hoping Kingswell Theatre can continue his fine record at Cheltenham in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase on Friday.

The 11-year-old caused an upset when winning at this discipline for a second time last month, making all the running to beat Beau Du Brizais despite being well out of the handicap.

This time, Kingswell Theatre has 11st 7lb to carry, but Scudamore reports his stable stalwart to be in fine form for his return.

“Kingswell Theatre seems to have come out of his latest race in fine fettle. He has been a stable star for the yard and we could not be happier with him,” he said.

“It is clearly a different race this time around. With Easysland and Potters Corner coming out of the race, he will have to carry an awful lot more weight, so we will see how he handles that.

“Carrying a lot of weight round there is going to be tough, but I suppose the big two horses being out makes it a slightly easier race, although with the likes of Step Back and Neverushacon in there, it remains a really open race.”

Trainer Jessica Harrington
Trainer Jessica Harrington (Nigel French/PA)

Neverushacon has got round in two previous attempts on this track and loves the banks course at Punchestown, where he was successful on his latest start.

His trainer Jessica Harrington is praying the ground is not too testing for the nine-year-old.

“He was in great form at Punchestown. He did it very well. He’s jumped round there before. I hope the ground isn’t too heavy,” said the County Kildare handler.

“He’s always runs well there. I’m looking forward to running him, he’s in great form. He loves the ones at Punchestown. He’s won twice there – I just hope he can win at Cheltenham now.”

Step Back has come back to form this season
Step Back has come back to form this season (Julian Herbert/PA)

Step Back bids to complete a hat-trick for the season. Winner of the prestigious bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in the spring of 2018, Mark Bradstock’s 10-year-old has largely struggled to rediscover that form since.

However, an all-the-way victory in a three-runner race at Wincanton in October has seemingly turned his fortunes around, as he has since followed up in a veterans’ chase back at Sandown last month.

Sara Bradstock, assistant to her husband, is looking forward to seeing Step Back pursue a new discipline around Cheltenham’s cross-country circuit.

“Step Back seems to have got his mojo back,” she said.

“It’s always difficult for horses after they win a big race like that (bet365 Gold Cup), as they get a bit high in the handicap and you can’t ever give them an easy run.

“He’s very much a confidence fella, so the Wincanton race with three runners really helped him believe in himself again, and then the veterans’ chase at Sandown was ideal as for an Irish horse like him, who didn’t start running until he was five, he’s not really a veteran.

“He’s schooled really well round the cross-country course at Cheltenham since Sandown and it just gives him another route to go down.”

Kingswell Theatre to have entry at Cheltenham next month

Ground conditions will dictate whether Kingswell Theatre will return to Cheltenham next month following his surprise recent victory at Prestbury Park.

Cheltenham Festival winner Easysland was all the rage for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at the track’s November meeting, with dual Grand National hero and four-times Festival winner Tiger Roll rated his biggest threat.

However, Easysland could finish only fourth and Tiger Roll was pulled up, as Kingswell Theatre came home a clear-cut winner having made all, after which trainer Michael Scudamore was left considering whether the 11-year-old should go out in a blaze of glory.

But the veteran is reported to have taken his recent exertions so well that talk of retirement is now on hold, with another outing around Cheltenham’s cross-country course pencilled in.

Scudamore: “He seems to have come back in such good form in himself, we’ll give him an entry in the December race at Cheltenham and see what the ground is like.

“If it came up soft I think we’d probably swerve it, but if it was good to soft or better I’d imagine he’ll take his chance, all being well. As I say, he seems in such good form in himself, it would seem a shame to stop while he’s still so happy and well.

“He’s only 11, so while he’s getting on, he’s not absolutely ancient!

“We’ll just take it day by day or race by race. He’ll tell us whether he’s still enjoying it or not, but he does seem to have come out of his last race better than ever, really – I couldn’t be happier with him.”

The Herefordshire handler appears to have his string in particularly good form at present, with six of his last eight runners either winning or being placed.

That number includes Do Your Job who was favourite to complete his hat-trick in a Listed novice hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, following decisive victories at Ffos Las and Ayr.

He ultimately had to make do with minor honours behind Llandinabo Lad on Merseyside, but Scudamore believes there is still a lot to look forward to with a horse who made just five career starts.

He said: “He ran perfectly well. I think the front two (Do Your Job and Flic Ou Voyou) probably got racing far enough out, but that’s taking nothing away from the winner, who looks a nice horse in his own right.

“With hindsight we might like to run the race again, but he’s proven he’s a nice horse and hopefully he’ll have other days.”