Tom Scudamore feels little pressure but maintains complete respect for his forefathers as he aims to emulate their Randox Grand National success aboard Cloth Cap.
Hot favourite and extremely ‘well in’ racing off a stone lower than his current mark, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained nine-year-old staked his claim with victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy before following up with ease at Kelso.
Scudamore was in the saddle on both occasions, and he will be reunited with his mount on April 10 when the race is run behind closed doors for the first time in its history.
The jockey has ridden in the world’s most famous steeplechase 18 times already – but victory has evaded him so far, with a seventh-placed finish aboard Vieux Lion Rogue in 2017 his best result to date.
Scudamore is a rider uniquely placed to understand the significance of it all, though, owing to the exploits of both his father and grandfather in the National.
His grandfather Michael was a winner in 1959 when steering Oxo to victory, and still holds the record for the most consecutive National rides – having lined up at Aintree every season for 16 years.
That victory has become something of a legend in the Scudamore household, with Tom well versed on the varying fortunes of his family over the famed National fences.
“Grandad won it in 1959, and it’s something the whole family is very proud of,” he said.
“Throughout all that myself and my dad have achieved, wherever we went he was always ‘Michael Scudamore – who won the Grand National’.
“We’d talk about it over Sunday lunches when I was a kid, we’d devote hours to talking about Grand Nationals.
“Grandad rode in 16 consecutive races, which I still think is a record; dad rode in it 13 or 14 times.
“I listened to the story of every single ride. I could tell you about every single ride dad had in it, and every single ride grandad had in it, and their characteristics and how they got on – it was an enormous part of my childhood.”
Michael’s son, Tom’s father Peter, was never able to win the big race throughout an illustrious career which saw him crowned champion jockey eight times and enjoy success in numerous other coveted contests.
Michael and Peter then teamed up upon the latter’s retirement from the saddle and bought a bay gelding named Earth Summit, who was later sold and trained by Nigel-Twiston Davies, to whom Peter acted as assistant trainer and business partner.
After winning the Scottish and Welsh versions of the Grand National and also taking the Peter Marsh Chase, Earth Summit was an 11-length winner of the 1998 Aintree contest and provided a teenage Tom Scudamore with his first experience of what National success means.
“Growing up, dad was obviously associated with Nigel Twiston-Davies – and before that I’d go year after year and watch dad in the National, which would ultimately end up in disappointment,” he said.
“The year Earth Summit won it, I just remember that being absolute bedlam.
“That was my first realisation – I was always aware of what a great race the National was. But to go and win it, and witness everything that follows, that just absolutely blew my mind.
“I’d have been 13 or 14 at the time, and just the whole jamboree was not like anything I could have imagined, particularly after seeing all of the disappointment that we’d gone through.
“Seeing Earth Summit win it, grandad and dad having bought him and obviously played a massive part in his training, that was a fantastic memory.”
Peter then enjoyed further success in the race in 2017 when he and his partner Lucinda Russell, to whom he is assistant trainer, struck gold with 14-1 chance One For Arthur in 2017.
Despite being the next of the Scudamore dynasty to take up the mantle, Tom does not feel unduly pressured by the success of his family – nor is he troubled by the expectations which come with partnering the favourite for the race.
“The only pressure is the pressure I put on myself. I obviously want to win, but there’s lots of races I want to win,” he said.
“I don’t feel any pressure in that respect.
“I’d much rather be on the favourite than go under the radar on one of the outsiders.
“He’s the favourite for a reason, and it’s a very good reason. Hopefully he can justify that.
“It’s a lovely position to be in – it’s a great privilege.”
Cloth Cap’s owner, Trevor Hemmings, is as well acquainted with the race as the Scudamore family – having enjoyed three Grand National successes with Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).
Those three victories make Hemmings one of the most successful owners in the race, with another win set to distinguish him from the likes of Red Rum’s owner Noel Le Mare and Gigginstown House Stud – whose silks were carried to victory once by Rule The World and twice by Tiger Roll.
“Mr Hemmings is no stranger to National glory, and he (Cloth Cap) was probably bought with Aintree in mind,” added Scudamore.
“It goes without saying what a tremendous supporter of National Hunt racing he’s been.
“He deserves every success, and it would be an honour to follow in those footsteps and try to win it for him for a fourth time.”
Hemmings is an owner who has clearly always cherished the Grand National, an estimation Scudamore shares with regards to his own career accomplishments.
“It would be the pinnacle of my career up to that point,” he said.
“It’s the race I’ve always wanted to be involved with, and growing up it’s the race I’ve always wanted to win the most.
“It doesn’t add any more pressure on, but it’s a race I’ve spent my whole career trying to win – it would be the pinnacle as far as I’m concerned.”
Although Cloth Cap will be encountering the Aintree track for the first time, Scudamore is more familiar than most with the challenges posed by the Canal Turn and Becher’s Brook, and hopes to draw on that experience as he tackles the course once more aboard a horse that would be a hugely popular winner.
“I learnt plenty off Vieux Lion Rouge, who is a real National expert and who has jumped more National fences than just about any other horse in history,” he said.
“I haven’t been in a position to really crack it yet, but I’ve had a few good rides. Hopefully, I’m due an even better one.
“There are plenty of dangers. You have got to be very respectful of Kimberlite Candy, who seems to have been campaigned with this race in mind, Ted Walsh’s horse (Any Second Now) was very impressive in Ireland the other day and there will be plenty of horses with a chance, but I’ll be focusing on Cloth Cap.
“If the handicapper could have his say again we would be 14lb higher, so that is a lovely position to be in. It is such a high quality race that you have to respect any horse that meets the criteria and gets a run.”