Tom Scudamore looks forward to Hennessy Day in his first blog
In terms of my earliest memories of Racing, 1988 was the first season I can really remember well. I was five turning six. That was the first year I went to the Grand National and Dad fell on Strands of Gold and at the Cheltenham Festival I can vividly remember him winning the Champion Hurdle on Celtic Shot. Then the following year when he rode 200 winners in a season I used to go round with him everywhere, any time I was off school. So most Saturday’s I’d be with him going up and down the country. It was fantastic. I was brought up in the weighing room, brought up by the likes of John Buckingham who was Dad’s valet who always used to look after me. They wouldn’t allow it any more. These days children aren’t allowed in the weighing room at all. I have wonderful memories of those times. I’d often just be stood on the stands, on my own, cheering Dad on.
As a boy I was always aware of the falls and the dangers. I remember one running out with Dad one day round Cheltenham which was quite scary but I was never at the racecourse when he had a real bad smash up. I remember being at home when he broke his leg and that was awful, and I was at home as well when he broke his wrist, and those were worrying times. But when I watched him ride I wasn’t worrying about him I was just hoping he’d do well. The weird thing is, such was his dominant position at the time, that when Dad got home, I didn’t ask him how he’d got on, I’d ask him how many winners he’d ridden. It would be a bad day if he hadn’t ridden a winner.
I always thought I was going to be a jockey. I never wanted to be anything else. There was a stage when I was about thirteen going on fourteen that it looked as if I was going to be too big but luckily I didn’t grow. So the Rugby took a back seat after that and it was just horse racing only from then on. It was what I always wanted to do. It never really crossed my mind to do anything else.
It’s fantastic the way it’s worked out with David (Pipe). I went to work for Martin Pipe as soon as I finished school at eighteen, and I rode a lot of point to pointers for David and it just went on from there. Then when David took over the licence from his Dad I started riding more of David’s than I had previously for Martin and then within a year he offered me the stable jockey’s job. The rest is history.
Being the son of Peter Scudamore never made me feel any extra weight on my shoulders. To be honest I was used to it. I did a lot of show jumping as a kid, and from the age of eight when I entered the arena, I would be announced as Tom Scudamore, Peter Scudamore’s son, so it was something I just got used to. It was never a weight on my shoulders. I’m just incredibly proud of what Dad did, and what Grandad achieved. They did things that will be remembered forever and I just hope that I can have some of the success that they did.
I managed to reach 100 winners last season and the reason is quite simple, David’s got better horses. And because of that, good horses give you the confidence all the way through the season. Lots of people will be saying different things, and lots of nice things about me, but really the difference is the horses. Of course I’ve always felt like I’ve improved and progressed with each season but basically I’m riding a better quality of horse to that I was riding a year ago, and I’m riding a completely different quality of horse to those I was riding four years ago. All of a sudden the investment in horses in David’s yard is incredible. This season I’ve already ridden 80 winners. David’s horses have been really well, and David Bridgwater’s are running well too, so that’s been the key.
Tomorrow my first ride is Phone Home in the 1.20pm. I won on him round Ffos Las in the summer. He’s got to bounce back to form. He’s got the sheepskins on first time, but he’ll be one of the outsiders and you have to be realistic.
I’m on Home Run in the handicap hurdle in the 1.50pm. He was going quite well when he fell on the bend at Market Rasen a couple of weeks ago but he’s a bit of an in and out performer. When he’s well he has ability and he’s coming back to the right end of the handicap again, so hopefully he’ll run alright. It looked like he was going to win at Market Rasen when he fell, so I’m hopeful of a big run. He’s owned by Will Frewen who’s always been a big supporter of the yard. He’s been a part of Pond House for over 20 years and has a nice little string of horses this year including Home Run, so it would be good to ride him another winner.
I’m looking forward to seeing More Of That come back in the Long Distance Hurdle at 2.25pm. I was impressed with Cole Harden when he won last time round Wetherby. A horse of David’s called Un Temps Pour Tout absolutely hammered him at Ascot as a novice so, whilst Cole Harden may have improved since then, I’ll be very pleased to see Cole Harden give More of That a race as I’d then like to think I’ve got one at home to look forward to. Realistically More Of That and Tony McCoy should take an awful lot of beating.
Tony McCoy is phenomenal. In fact I find him very irritating, forever having to follow him round! He’s a fantastic ambassador for the sport, and has been so great for Racing. He’s transcended the sport as people who don’t know anything about racing have heard of Tony McCoy, and to win BBC Sports Personality and things like that, it’s just incredible. He’s a great Champion and a credit to the sport and long may it continue though I’d love to beat him. It’s the same for everybody, everybody wakes up every day wanting to beat him but at the moment we haven’t been able to.
Then it’s The Hennessy at 3.00pm where I ride Ballynagour. He’s got Grade 1 form but it’s over two miles, and two miles four. I’ve always felt that he’ll get three miles but will he get three miles two on soft ground here? Until he actually goes and does it you’ve obviously got that question mark against him. We obviously wouldn’t be running him if we didn’t think he could stay but he’s got to go and do it. I always felt he was a Grade 1 horse and then he went and proved he was a Grade 1 horse, and in this kind of race Grade 1 horses tend to win it so he deserves his place. Yes he’s got a lot of weight but so have the main protagonists. I’m not concerned about whether he has the ability to win, it’s more the question of stamina over the trip and soft ground. He’s always held up in his races anyway. He can be quite an enthusiastic individual, so the first thing to do is get him switched off in his races and that doesn’t matter if its two miles, two miles four or three miles two. If you see me pulling early on it’s not a good sign.
If I wasn’t riding Ballynagour, the two I would want to ride would be Fingal Bay or Smad Place. Gold Cup type horses tend to win the Hennessy so I look for which horses in the field I wouldn’t be surprised to see turn up in the Gold Cup field. Smad place is one of those, Fingal Bay is the other. I was impressed by Smad Place last season. He ran a great race at last year’s Festival and looks just as good over fences as he was over hurdles. Fingal Bay was a high quality hurdler, maybe just below the top notch but very good nonetheless. His form in winning the Pertemps Hurdle at the Festival under top weight is rock solid. The only concern I’d have for him is that in his three runs over fences he’s only raced against 10 horses in total. But if you look back at those three runs, the form of them is very, very good. Dynaste beat him and Unioniste was in third at Cheltenham. When he looked like winning but ran out at Exeter, a horse called Chartreux was a distance behind him. I then won on Chartreux at the Punchestown Festival off a mark of 131. So it’s not the class with him, or the weight, it’s the nineteen runners that concerns me slightly with him.
In the last race the 3.35pm I ride Monetaire who is likely to be nearly favourite for this. He ran a great race at Cheltenham but didn’t jump very well. He nearly fell at the first fence and then his jumping wasn’t great throughout so ran an amazing race all things considered. Sometimes that happens with the horses that come from France. They’re used to brushing through the fences in France so no matter how much jumping you do with them at home he just got back on the racecourse and thought they were French fences again. He’s done plenty of schooling at home since and even a repeat of that last run would see him go close in this and I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t win.