Tom Scudamore: Grand National Q&A
Coral ambassador on why the Aintree showpiece is so special
What does the Grand National mean to you?
It’s the greatest race in the world bar none. When you are asked as a jockey what race you most want to win it’s very hard to choose between the Grand National and the Gold Cup, but you want to win both and the Grand National goes way beyond the normal horse racing following to a whole new audience, which makes it unique and very special.
Earliest Grand National Memory?
My earliest memory is being at Aintree in 1988 to watch my Dad (Peter) riding Strands of Gold, and he fell when the horse was going really well so it’s not the happiest of memories, as we were all so disappointed.
It was very exciting, and had been a great few days, but then it was a very long journey home afterwards.
Best Grand National ride?
I’ve had some great spins on Le Vieux Lion Rouge, I had a great ride on Soll and a good ride on Blowing Wind. Sixth is the best finishing position I have achieved so far, but hopefully there are a good few more Nationals in me and I can improve on that.
Funniest National Memory?
It was in 2001 when it was absolutely bottomless at Aintree, and Mick Fitzgerald had got hurt in an earlier race and couldn’t ride Esprit De Cotte in the National.
I was an amateur at the time and used to sit next to Paul Flynn, and there was a rumour going round the weighing room that Paul was going to be asked to ride it, so he went and sat in the car!
Also in that year, a couple of the Irish lads got arrested on the way to the racecourse, because they had the wrong driving licence, and they were put in a cell, where Brian Crowley was begging to get out because he had to ride in the Grand National. and he only made it by the skin of his teeth half an hour before the race.
Favourite Grand National winner?
The best winner to watch as a spectator was Earth Summit as my Dad was in partnership with Nigel Twiston-Davies at the time. It was a great race and an exciting finish. I was 15 years old, and I had broken my leg so had been off school, so I just remember it being a party for a week.
What makes riding in the Grand National so unique?
You try and treat it the same as every other race, but what makes it so different is the number of runners. Yes you have to have your wits about you at some of the fences, especially The Canal Turn, and of course Bechers Brook, but the size of the field is what makes it truly unique.
In truth everything about the race is turned up to 11, to nick a line from the film Spinal Tap. The huge media and public attention the race, the fences, the number of runners, it all combines to make it a unique race. It’s very draining and you sleep very well that night. Just getting round is a huge achievement and a huge thrill.
What is the routine like for a jockey building up to the race?
It’s just a question of keeping calm. If you have a ride in the race before that helps to minimise the waiting around, and then everything just builds up as the race gets closer.
It’s a very easy race to get focused for. Everything about the build-up is as big a buzz as you can get. The parade before the race, the moments before the start, the lining up when the starter climbs his rostrum. Nothing else comes close to the buzz at that moment.
All the time you are just trying to block everything out to keep a lid on your emotions.
What are your thoughts on the Virtual Grand National?
The Virtual Grand National is a great initiative and all for a brilliant cause. Hopefully everyone will have a lot of fun watching it.
For a bit of fun what would be your perfect 1-2-3-4?
Obviously I want to ride the winner, so I’d like my horse Ramses De Teillee to come first. Then Tiger Roll can come second, and the horse I would have fancied for the real Grand National would have been Any Second Now. Quick enough to win over two miles and won the Kim Muir over three miles two furlongs he looks laid out for the race.
1. Ramses De Teillee
2. Tiger Roll
3. Any Second Now