Tom Scudamore has the Champers On Ice for Thistlecrack
It was great to ride a couple of winners from just two rides yesterday. I’m a pretty confident person anyway, but winners always put a spring in the step especially as they were for the two trainers that I have big rides for today, David Pipe and Colin Tizzard.
I think today is one of the best day’s jump racing of the season so far. Good quality cards, competitive handicaps, at Cheltenham and Doncaster. It’s a wonderful day’s racing. To see Djakadam against Smad Place and Many Clouds, Thistlecrack versus Camping Ground, and those novice hurdles are fantastic. It’s a bumper day of racing.
I’m riding Un Temps Por Tout in the 1.15 at Cheltenham. It’s a very competitive race and of course it’s going to be tough, but he’s stepping back in trip which he won’t mind as this is being run on the New Course which is stiffer than the Old Course which ran over at the Paddy Power meeting. I think it will suit him. I’m not sure that he’s quite run up to the mark that they’ve given him over fences, but hopefully he can run up to it today. I’ve been a bit disappointed with him. At the beginning of the season I was hoping that he would be unbeaten at this point in his novice chasing career. It hasn’t quite happened. He’s run well but not quite as well as we know he can. I still firmly believe that he’s a Grade 1 horse, and have complete faith in him. Hopefully he can show that today.
I ride one of my favourite horses The Giant Bolster in the Betbright Trial Chase at 1.50pm and I just hope that he shows some of his old spark. He ran very well at Newbury two starts ago and he didn’t then build on that last time at Ascot. Today he’s back at a course he loves and he’s run well on this day before, and hopefully he can show his old form. He’s eleven years old now and he really pleased me at Newbury but then disappointed at Ascot. I just want him to show that he’s still enjoying it and still capable of winning races.
I think Djakadam will win but I’d like to see them ride Smad Place the way they did around Newbury in the Hennessy. He’s always been a good horse but he looked a top class horse in the Hennessy. If he can run back to that form at Newbury he can give Djakadam a race.
You just have to marvel at the strength and depth that Willie Mullins has in his yard. Those that are knocking it and saying it’s bad for racing are just envious. It’s not bad for racing, it’s a testament to his skills. He’s been training a long time and now he’s the new dominant force. He’s the most dominant trainer since Vincent O’Brien. There’s him and then there’s the rest. Even when Martin Pipe was training all those winners he wasn’t going to Cheltenham expecting ten winners. The most he had was four or five winners. Willie Mullins is utterly dominant on every single level at the moment.
Of course you want competitive racing, but this isn’t going to go on forever. He’s just setting a new standard and everyone else has to respond and find a way to challenge him. You just have to appreciate it and it’s up to us to try and match it. I admire him, and what he’s done is incredible.
As impressed as I was with Un De Sceaux, I don’t think he’s the best two miler I’ve ever seen. He sets the standard in the Champion Chase but I don’t think he’s a certainty for it. Faugheen is a certainty for the Champion Hurdle and Douvan looks a certainty for the Arkle, but the rest of his horses are in races with proper competition.
The 3.00pm is a brilliant novice hurdle. My horse Champers On Ice has to improve fifteen lengths to beat Shantou Village but I think he’s improved at least that much since the Paddy Power meeting when they last met. I’m sure Shantou Village has improved too, so it’s still going to be tough. Any rain we get will suit my horse. I think we have a good competitive chance but it’s a wonderful race. The thing with this horse is that his real future is going to be chaser. We are delighted that he has proven such a good hurdler already but he is going to make a terrific chaser.
At the beginning of the season I was really looking forward to riding Thistlecrack. I thought he was going to be one of the stars. I haven’t been expecting him to do what he’s done but at the same time I haven’t been surprised. I think he’s got a great chance today but I won’t be going out thinking this is one run before the Festival , I’ll be focusing just on winning the Cleeve Hurdle. Colin is very positive about the horse. I respect Camping Ground and the others in the race. Camping Ground finished ahead of Thistlecrack in the Imperial Cup but Thistlecrack is a different horse now. He sets the standard and they all have to go some to beat him. There is certainly no reason why he won’t perform well at Cheltenham either.
On Sunday I have a couple of chances, Top Wood for David and Divine Port for Alan Swinbank, who I ride quite a few for.