Scudamore Says: “In terms of the race I’d most want to win it’s hard to separate the Gold Cup and the Grand National”
Top Jockey Tom Scudamore looks ahead to the 2017 Grand National and talks about his family’s history in the big race
I’ve always had the great pride and pleasure knowing that my Grandad won the Grand National, and that feeling just gets stronger as you get older. I never stop marvelling at the fact that he managed to win this great race. It’s something I’m just incredibly proud of.
One of my first memories of racing was going to the Grand National in 1988 when my Dad rode Strands of Gold, and I’ve never missed one since. I remember the excitement building up to it, and the fact that it was different, although I didn’t appreciate why it was so different. I remember the excitement of Dad being in front, and then the utter disappointment I felt when he fell at Bechers Brook when in front second time around. That was a long journey home that day.
Then there was all the excitement and disappointments after that. I felt the disappointments quite personally, especially when Bonanza Boy was favourite and Dockland’s Express was favourite. I remember going up each time thinking this will be Dad’s year. The third time Dad rode Bonanza Boy it was heavy ground, and I remember thinking this could be it, but it wasn’t. I used to get excited nearly every year.
My Dad got a great thrill out of riding in the race. He used to say to me that just getting round in the Grand National was just the same feeling as riding a winner anywhere else. The only time I remember him being really disappointed was when he rode Strands Of Gold. It wasn’t something that irked him or ate away at him. It’s just like any big race, you want to win it, and you do your best to win it but if it doesn’t happen, what can you do?
This year will be my 16th ride in the race. In fact I’ll have had more rides than Dad and Grandad had in the race. I think Grandad had 13 rides in the National and my Dad had 12.
I’ve always chatted to both Dad and Grandad about tactics and the best way to ride Aintree. Grandad gave me some very good advice about how to ride the race which has stuck with me. We discuss it all the time. I hadn’t had much luck over the National fences until recently when I won over them for the first time on Poole Master two years ago and then I won the Becher Chase on Vieux Lion Rouge in November. That certainly gives me plenty of confidence particularly as in the big race itself, in 15 attempts at the race, 8th is the best position I’ve finished.
My Dad and Lucinda have One For Arthur in the race. We haven’t spoken much about our respective chances in the race recently. It’s one of those things he lets me get on with it, and I let him get on with it. I know he’s very excited about having a runner.
The camaraderie around the Grand National is pretty special. The first thing you think about when you come back in is to check that everyone’s alright. Just getting round gives jockeys a high, and it’s only those with hard luck stories who might be feeling down. I remember Aidan Coleman falling when going well one year, and being desperately disappointed, and Richie McLernon being disappointed when he just got beaten on Sunnyhillboy. But then there was Robbie Dunne who finished third on a big outsider with no excuses and he was on a high for weeks. There is certainly something unique about the camaraderie after the race.
In the race, I just take it fence by fence and concentrate on the positions I want to be in at each stage of the race. I don’t go around hoping to be lucky or staying out of trouble. The one thing you have to be aware of are the loose horses. That’s the only time we talk to each-other is to point out the loose horses, we might shout to each other “watch the loose horse on the inside” and things like that. That’s when you do try to help each other out. Otherwise I just concentrate on riding fence to fence and my own plan.
Winning the Grand National would be the biggest win of my career. In terms of the race I’d most want to win it’s hard to separate the Gold Cup and the Grand National. To win either would be extraordinary. But my Grandad won both races and he’s always remembered for winning the Grand National which I suppose tells you why that race is so special. When I meet people, and they ask you what you do, and you say you are a jockey, then the first thing they ask is “have you ever ridden in the Grand National?” That’s the race everyone wants to know about and talk about. To win it is a life-changing thing. Just look at Leighton Aspell and Lim Treadwell and what it’s done for them.
I have great confidence in Vieux Lion Rouge. I sat on him and schooled him on Tuesday and was very pleased with him. He’s been there, done it and got the T-shirt, I just think he’s got everything. He’s young, he’s improving, he’s ahead of the handicapper, I think he has a great chance.
I watched the Coral Grand Splash-ional video on my way back from Carlisle. It was great to see Vieux Lion Rouge win but I certainly won’t be doing a loop-the-loop if I win the real version on Saturday. Flyboarding looked great fun, though I’m not sure I’d be very good at it; all that going down head-first. I’m not sure my body could take doing that. It certainly looked interesting. I’m not really a water-sports type. I try to keep out of the water really. I’ve never been a great swimmer. My Dad and my brother, Michael, like the water and going out in boats. They have sea legs. I’m more like my Grandad. He didn’t have sea legs either. Let’s hope for the same result on Saturday when I ride Vieux Lion Rouge in the Grand National