Tag Archive for: Peter Scudamore

Wetherby confirmed as intended destination for Ahoy Senor

Promising novice chaser Ahoy Senor will head to Wetherby for his Cheltenham Festival warm-up run, connections have confirmed.

Lucinda Russell’s young star won a Grade Two race at Newbury by 31 lengths before chasing home Bravemansgame in the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton Park over Christmas.

While beaten seven and a half lengths, Russell’s assistant and partner, Peter Scudamore, believes there is more to come from the seven-year-old, who is as short as 6-1 with Coral and best-priced 12-1 with Paddy Power for the Festival Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on March 16.

Though connections were eyeing the Winter Million meeting at Lingfield for Ahoy Senor’s next run, Scudamore is instead targeting the three-mile Towton Chase at Wetherby on February 5.

“Ahoy Senor is fine,” said Scudamore. “I think he’ll be favourite when he goes for the Towton.

“Though we were toying with the idea of running at Lingfield, I think he will go to Wetherby now.

“We will just target him for that race and see what happens.”

The track did not appear to suit Ahoy Senor at Kempton, but Scudamore says the talented youngster, a Grade One-winning hurdler last season, lost no caste in defeat.

“He was shaping up to be Arkle and he’s not,” he added. “He’s still learning and we went to Kempton in hope.

“I watch these races and I do think, without putting my safety hat on, we do have a responsibility to support these races – a £100,000 novice chase – and you are disappointed with £20,000 for finishing second!

“That is the level of the thing and even if he wasn’t able to beat Bravemansgame, who is a very good horse, we lost nothing in defeat.”

The Kinross-based Russell gave Ahoy Senor an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and while nothing is ruled out, Scudamore admitted: “I would think it most unlikely – but if you are not in, you can’t win.

“Who knows what is going to happen? Bob Olinger etc look as good a set of novices as I have seen, but it is a long time between now and March.

“We will go to Wetherby and see where we go after that.”

Ahoy Senor team working back from March

Lucinda Russell will map out a plan towards the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase for impressive Newbury winner Ahoy Senor, with Warwick or Lingfield pencilled in for his next run.

The six-year-old scorched to a 31-length victory in a Grade Two on Saturday and has been handed an official rating of 157  by the assessor.

Eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner and assistant, says Ahoy Senor – known as ‘Hank’ in the Kinross yard, has taken his race well.

“He exercised on Tuesday morning and seems pleased with himself,” said Scudamore.

“Looking at the race objectively, you could argue that none of his three rivals gave their true running, the favourite (Mr Incredible) making mistakes, but you can argue that reflects favourably on ‘Hank’, who had them in trouble from some way out.

“I hope the others did perform to their level, but he is still an inexperienced horse and he should continue to learn with racing. He produced a visually stunning performance to run out a wide-margin winner on only his second start over fences.

“His jumping is still a work in progress and ‘Hank’ is inclined to go out to his right and got in tight at a couple, notably the water, but when he meets a fence on a stride, his scope is something to behold and his fencing did improve as the race went on.

“Perhaps one or, ideally, two more starts should hopefully provide the perfect preparation for Cheltenham. The Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase is what we can start working back from.”

The Grade Two McCoy Contractors Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick on January 15 has been pencilled in for Ahoy Senor’s next start, although a trip to Lingfield is also a possibility.

Scudamore added: “He will have an entry at Kempton (Kauto Star Novices’ Chase), but I think our preference is probably Warwick or Lingfield. We will probably have to keep an eye on the ground.

“I didn’t run him at Hexham because the ground was probably on the quicker side. It was lovely ground at Aintree and the rain helped at Newbury. I was worried that he might be better on good to soft, and obviously the welfare of the horse is paramount.

“We will probably go to Warwick or Lingfield and then go to Cheltenham. With Warwick, the timing is perfect – two months from Cheltenham. But we will have to look at the weather forecast.

“It makes you realise how well the likes of Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson make things look so easy and silky to get their big horses ready for Cheltenham. It is an art.

“The decision-making and the timing is important with these horses and I take my hat off to them.”

Scudamore’s immediate reaction that the horse would be rated around 171 after his victory was tempered by the assessor, who handed Ahoy Senor a mark of 157.

He added: “We are hopefully at the beginning of a exciting journey. His rating seems of little importance at the moment and there is nothing I can do about others’ thoughts of his performance.”

Scudamore bowled over by Ahoy Senor’s super display

There are moments in racing that can seem significant and it is rare to see as seasoned a jockey and trainer as Peter Scudamore so enthused about a horse as he was over Newbury victor Ahoy Senor.

The six-year-old is just starting to climb the ladder and eight-times champion jockey Scudamore, who is assistant to partner Lucinda Russell, could not hide his excitement after Derek Fox had brought him home 31 lengths clear of his three rivals in the Grade Two Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase.

A shock winner of an Aintree Grade One over hurdles in the spring, Ahoy Senor had fluffed his lines when set a stiff task on his chasing bow, unseating Fox in an intermediate chase at Carlisle won by Fiddlerontheroof.

Scudamore’s faith remained unshaken though and he has no doubts Ahoy Senor is destined for the top.

Ahoy Senor was not foot perfect at the water the first time
Ahoy Senor was not foot perfect at the water the first time (Steven Paston/PA)

He said: “You are (training) in Scotland and you seem a little bit of an underdog. And then, when I was watching him work, I said to the owners ‘this horse is as good as I have dealt with’, but then, when you get close to the time, I thought ‘I wish I hadn’t opened my mouth’!

“I wish I just said ‘he’s OK’, but you say it with belief at the time and you get nervous. He has got far bigger mountains to climb, but I have never seen a horse or any athlete with as much enthusiasm about his business.

“He just loves it. You watch him walk, he has a presence about him, he has his ears pricked. He is not stupid, he just wants to get on with it. How far he can go, I don’t know, but today was a nice marker to lay down in what looks a competitive division.

“I have been through all this before. After all these years in the game, it’s amazing how this can get you so wound up and so excited about a horse. They are very humbling.

“We took him to Aintree last season and he won and that could have been a fluke, but his jumping was obviously there. There is no fuss when he goes up the gallops, nothing can lay up with him. Either mine are all useless or he is just on a different level.”

Peter Scudamore and Lucinda Russell pictured at Aintree in April
Peter Scudamore and Lucinda Russell pictured at Aintree in April (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Scudamore partnered 1,678 winners in his riding days, counting two Champion Hurdles, a Queen Mother Champion Chase, four Welsh Grand Nationals and two Scottish Nationals among his haul, before going to start his training spell as assistant to Nigel Twiston-Davies.

The team enjoyed two Grand National winners with Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002) during his spell in Naunton, so Scudamore certainly has some solid points of reference in assessing Ahoy Senor’s ability.

Thistlecrack famously bolted up as a 1-8 favourite in this race in 2016 before landing the King George VI Chase and while Scudamore is uncertain how Ahoy Senor would compare to that particular star, he outlined his regard in no uncertain terms.

He said: “Whether he’s a Thistlecrack or not, I don’t know, but he is the best we’ve dealt with, including Earth Summit and Bindaree.

“It is what the game needs. He did it at Carlisle and I hadn’t really noticed it before, but the crowd gasps when he jumps and they did it here. Maybe he’s better on these flat tracks, but it was good.

“I suppose it is my stupidity to be in this game after so many years, but I said to Lucinda this morning, ‘this is the most important day of our lives’!

“She told me not to be so stupid, but that is what they make you feel. You are in awe of them, just to see what they can do, but he is in a hot division, so it is wonderful for us poor little people up in Scotland.”

Ahoy Senor strides on at Newbury
Ahoy Senor strides on at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA)

Russell nominated the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day as a possible next port of call, but Scudamore fully expects a Cheltenham Festival run to be on the cards sooner rather than later.

He added: “At the beginning of the season, we thought we might try to get him to something like the Towton Chase (at Wetherby), because I think that is a good step. Where he goes, I don’t know, but she’ll want to go to Kempton.

“I suppose he will go to Cheltenham one day. How we get him to Cheltenham one day, I don’t know. It will probably be this season. What has he run to today – 171? So, that’s big things.

“I’m not Paul Nicholls – I don’t have the experience to take these horses down that line.

“I thought he was better left than right and he has jumped to his right today. He jumped fantastic at Carlisle and he wouldn’t have won, but who cares?

“Luce (Russell) always wanted to go to Carlisle because of the ground and I want him to have horses upsides, otherwise we will get to Cheltenham and he will never see another horse. He does go up and down a hill and handled Carlisle perfectly well.

“It is a nice problem to have – it is dream. I’ll ring Mr Nicholls to see what I should do!”

Scudamore not feeling the weight of National history

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.

Cloth Cap and Tom Scudamore clear the last to win the Ladbrokes Trophy
Cloth Cap and Tom Scudamore clear the last to win the Ladbrokes Trophy (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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.

Tom Scudamore's grandfather, Michael
Tom Scudamore’s grandfather, Michael (PA)

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.

Earth Summit en route to victory in the 1998 Grand National
Earth Summit en route to victory in the 1998 Grand National (Rui Vieira/PA)

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).

Trevor Hemmings (right) celebrates after victory in the Grand National with Many Clouds
Trevor Hemmings (right) celebrates after victory in the Grand National with Many Clouds (Mike Egerton/PA)

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.

Tom Scudamore aboard Vieux Lion Rouge (left) in the 2017 Grand National
Tom Scudamore aboard Vieux Lion Rouge (left) in the 2017 Grand National (David Davies/PA)

“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.”