Tom Scudamore would love to ride Rocky Creek in the National
I ride Soll in the Grand National and think he’s got a cracking chance but in addition to him, here are my four against the field. The first two are going to be obvious, Rocky Creek and Shutthefrontdoor.
Rocky Creek looks well in at the weights after his win at Kempton. He was impressive that day and kept on well which is something he hadn’t been doing. He galloped all the way to the line and obviously the breathing operation that he’d had helped him to finish his race. Last year it didn’t matter whether his races were over 4 and a half miles, 3 and a quarter miles or 3 miles, he wasn’t getting home. He looked like he was going to win the Hennessy, but he didn’t get home. He looked like he was going to win the Argento Chase at Cheltenham but he didn’t get home, then for a long way he looked like he was going to win the Grand National and he didn’t get home. The breathing operation has helped him finish his races and to be honest if I could ride any horse in the race, Rocky Creek would be the one for me.
With Shutthefrontdoor the one question has to be his preparation. Why hasn’t he run for such a long time? But having said that Jonjo O’Neill has such a good record with long distance chases whether it’s the Grand National or any of the big long distance races, he’s one to have faith in. As with Rocky Creek, Shutthefrontdoor would not have looked out of place in The Gold Cup. They are effectively graded horses running in a handicap. Lord Windermere has won a Gold Cup but he’s giving 7lbs and 8lbs to these two horses that he’d probably struggle to beat off level weights.
At the bigger prices and with the ground drying out I think Al Co can run a huge race. I’d ignore his form leading up to the race. Although he hasn’t won the race, Peter Bowen has a good record in the race over these fences. He knows how to get his horse spot on for these races. Al Co has had a similar build up and preparation to McKelvey, who if he hadn’t broken down would probably have won the race when beaten by Silver Birch. I watched his Coral Scottish Grand National win and he was impressive. He won easily, he even had time to do a shimmy up the run-in and nearly dislodged Jamie. Of all the outsiders I think he’s got a cracking chance. It will be sad for Jamie Moore who misses the ride through injury. He’s one of my best pals. I’d be really upset if he missed the winner of the National. But one man’s loss is another man’s gain. Frank Lloyd who owns the horse, I rode for when I was an amateur, so it shows how long he’s owned horses for! They’re a good family so would be deserving winners.
My other outsider is Alvarado. The drying ground probably wouldn’t be ideal for him but Paul Moloney has such a great record in the race. He’s been placed six times. He knows how to get them round here and that means an awful lot. He squeezed in and he’s meeting the likes of Monbeg Dude on better terms then when he beat him round Cheltenham last year. You could give him a chance. I don’t think he can win it but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see him in the first four.
It’s highly likely that we’ll end up having to have a standing start, which is not ideal, but everyone knows where they stand. If we line-up before instructed then we’ll have to have a standing start. It’s very clear. The one thing that annoys me is that they should know how long it takes for the jockeys and horses to get down from the parade ring to the start, because they get us out there so early each time. The last thing we want to be doing out there is walking round in circles for three minutes. They should be able to judge it that we have our pictures taken, chat to the owners in the parade ring, the bell rings, we go down to the start and get off quickly. So what if we are 30 seconds or a minute late off? Just don’t get us down to the start too early. Everyone gets worked up. The horses, the jockeys, everyone. All we need is enough time to have our girths checked, one circle round, and then off we go. The trouble is we’re down there so long it’s like musical chairs, everyone has half an eye on the starter, we’re there for three or four minutes, and we’re all getting more and more worked up. The trouble with the start last year wasn’t that it was a false start, it was because we lined up 15 seconds too early. The actual start was a perfect start it was just 15 seconds too early.
The Grand National is the greatest race in the world. It’s a wonderful spectacle. Yes, you want what’s best for the horses and for everybody, but it’s a wonderful race and the course executive and the BHA deserve a lot of credit recently for the way they’ve handled the race. Now’s the time to say we can’t make changes for changes sake. The RSPCA are always going to want something changed, so I don’t blame David Muir for his comments on reducing the field, as they are never going to say everything is fine. But the race has been changed and adapted and now is the time for the BHA to stand up for the race and racing in general. We all love our horses, they get five star treatment which is more than can be said for an awful lot of people. Sometimes you’ve got to get on the front foot. In terms of the number of runners, I’m very happy with the way the race is now. You should always review things but I see no reason to narrow the field down. I think it makes for a great spectacle and there is plenty of room for everybody.