Tom Scudamore looks forward to Cheltenham on New Years Day
I was riding at Taunton on Tuesday when they omitted hurdles because of the sun which caused quite a fuss. I rode in the first handicap hurdle and I found that the shadows were bad. It’s not so much the fact that jockeys and horses have sun in their eyes, I don’t think horses really are too bothered by that, the one issue I have is when the shadows are bad as horses then try and jump the shadows.
From a racecourse point of view if a horse turns over half way down the back straight and suffers an injury and I as the jockey come back in and say that he’s taken off a stride to early because he’s tried to jump the shadow and then landed on the ditch or landed on the hurdle. Whose responsibility is it?
At Taunton they certainly should have jumped all the hurdles in the last race as the sun had gone in, but then in the chase they probably should have omitted some fences in the back straight, as most of the horses didn’t jump very well because they were trying to jump the shadows. That’s the problem. I mean if your horse fell because it tried to jump a shadow the racecourse has a problem. Where there’s blame there’s a claim and that’s the issue. We’ve just got to be careful.
Looking ahead to Cheltenham my first ride is on Our Father in the 12.45pm. He ran well for a long way in the Becher Chase at Aintree. In fact he looked like he was going to win for quite some way but it didn’t quite happen for him. Aintree is a tricky track to ride. It’s so far from the third last to the line and Conor just let him roll and he didn’t get home. It was quite an encouraging run all in all but perhaps also a win that got away.
He does have an in-and-out record, and is not the most consistent of horses, but he has won around Cheltenham in the past. You can definitely find bits of form that would give him a great chance. He’s one of those that doesn’t take his races that well and so is quite lightly raced.
I ride Darna in the 1.55pm for Kim Bailey. I’ve ridden quite a lot for Kim over the years. Jason Maguire would normally ride but has another mount in the race, and on these good days there are often a few good spare rides knocking around. When I ride a horse that I haven’t ridden before like Darna the first thing I do is go through all its form and then watch some of its videos, the times that it’s won but also the times when it’s been beaten to see if anything has happened differently. You are just trying to pick up little bits and pieces about the horse. I will then talk to Jason about the horse on the day but it’s a funny thing as he’s a competitor in the race so it’s not up to him to tell me too much, but he might pass on little bits of information like be careful at the start as he sometimes whips round or something like that. He might tell me a bit about his jumping like he prefers to go in short, or he’s brave and likes to jump big and bold, but nothing more than that. If you haven’t ridden a horse before sometimes you can come in with a fresh perspective. So if it’s been beaten on its five previous starts maybe you can come in and try something different. That can sometimes work out well.
The majority of horses I ride in races I probably haven’t sat on before, so it’s up to me to have done the homework so that when I get on them they’re not actually strangers if you know what I mean? You then know what to expect. So yes you haven’t ridden them before, but you’ve watched the videos of their racing, you know what they can do and what their capabilities are. That’s the job and off you go.
There are horses that I know well and that I always look forward to riding but they tend to be the good ones, like Kings Palace or Dynaste, the Giant Bolster, the horses I’ve ridden time and time again. I might get an old handicap chaser that I love to ride because they’re tough and game. There’s a horse I won a couple of races on in the summer called Mister Wiseman, he’s thirteen years old, and I love riding him because he’s such a tough, honest old horse. Those sorts of horse might not be a household name but they’re good rides at their own level.
I find it amusing that jockeys often get pigeon-holed by pundits and punters as a certain type of rider. Richard Johnson and I are often tagged as front running, bold,jockeys and then Ruby Walsh and Noel Fehily are jockeys that hold up horses and like to take their time but that’s actually nonsense as all jockeys can ride every type of race. For example Noel rode Silviniaco Conti from the front in the King George and myself and Dicky have dropped in horses before in big races, as he did in a Champion Hurdle on Rooster Booster and I did in a Ryanair Chase on Dynaste. It’s just a case of riding how the horses want to be ridden. It’s also relevant who you are riding for. David’s are always simple to ride, they’re fit and they jump well, so I take advantage of that. The reason that Dicky Johnson is known as a positive, front running jockey is that Phillip Hobbs is the same, he likes getting his horses up into the first three, it’s just the way he is.
In the 2.30pm I’m on Knight Of Noir. He ran a great race at Cheltenham last time and is stepping up in trip. He always felt like he wants three miles. It’s a competitive race but I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t there or thereabouts. He’s probably my best ride of the day.
I then ride Barneby a newcomer in the bumper at 3.40pm. I’ve sat on him at home and he’s ready to go. In these bumpers you don’t know what you’ve got until you get on the track. I’ve ridden plenty of horses in bumpers that you expect to go and win and they don’t, and then others that you’re not expecting a lot from and they go and surprise you. David wouldn’t be sending this fella to Cheltenham first time up if he hadn’t been pleasing us. You send what you think are your better horses to the better tracks, but all the other trainers will be thinking that same thing.
When I look forward to the New Year my first priority is to get to a hundred. I’m on 92 at the moment so I’d like to do it as quickly as possible. Then I’d like to ride a winner at the Cheltenham Festival. That would be great. And then away from the track, I just want my family to stay healthy and that keeps everything else in perspective. There’s certainly nothing I’d look to change. I’m very settled and very happy, and enjoying good working relationships, and that’s reflected in the results.
Last year was a very good year, I had three winners at Cheltenham Festival last year, but I’m not thinking that was extra special or I was lucky, last year is what I hope becomes the standard year, and is what I expect of myself looking forward. I’ve got to go and do it again, and keep on doing it.