While he might retain a close association with the Grand National, Peter Scudamore is not defined by it. On the eve of tomorrow’s race he is only looking forward. In a manner of speaking, he is riding two horses.
His loyalties are split between One For Arthur, the eight-year-old gelding he has helped train with Milnathort-based partner Lucinda Russell and Vieux Lion Rouge, ridden by his son, Tom.
Scudamore never won the Grand National in an otherwise distinguished career that saw him earn the champion jockey title on eight occasions. But his father, Michael, triumphed in 1959 on Oxo. Three generations of Scudamores have now ridden over 3,000 winners in total between them.
Whether the Grand National still carries the same charge, Scudamore is unsure.
“The race has changed so much over the years,” he said yesterday. “The romance of the race has changed from when my father won it. Back then, it was like the FA Cup final, one of the great sporting events of the calendar for the British people.
“[It was like] The Scottish Cup final, the Derby….but the sport has changed and the whole race has changed. Some would say for the better. So I look at it as not the sporting icon it was, but it’s still very important to us.”
‘Us’ could be taken to mean two different things. It could and most probably does refer to him and Russell, with hopes high One For Arthur can become the first Scottish-owned and trained horse to win the Grand National since Rubstic in 1979. But there must be a potent, complex mix of emotions brewing in Scudamore’s belly ahead of tomorrow, given Tom’s involvement.
Then there’s Scudamore’s own Grand National history to take into account. He doesn’t regard his winless run over 13 consecutive years as thwarted ambition although it’s surely significant that he retired almost immediately after his last ride in the race, in 1993.
“But there was still the National to come, one of the few remaining races I really wanted to win,” he wrote in Scu, his autobiography which was published later that same year.
Sadly, it was the race that never was – two false starts rendered the result void, even though there was confusion whether the red flag had ever been raised the second time, meaning jockeys instructed their horses to gallop on. Scudamore retired the same month, not even waiting until the end of the season.
But he’s clearly not bitter. Scudamore enjoyed abundant compensation. In any case, he’s already been involved with two winners as a co-trainer – Bindaree in 2002 and Earth Summit in 1998.
“I was lucky in my career,” said Scudamore. “It doesn’t bother me I didn’t win a Grand National as a jockey. Nigel Twiston-Davies and I had a business together and we trained two winners out of it.
“It was a huge joy as two stupid little boys who grew up together in a small, rural English village [in Herefordshire] could train a National winner.
“You grew up with gods training them, yet we did it. It will mean a lot [if One for Arthur wins] because of my association with Lucinda [pictured below], but I have to be careful because my son rides the joint-favourite.”
He added: “Sometimes I have to pinch myself how lucky I am. I will get there and I know what’ll happen. I’ll worry come Saturday morning on the safety of Thomas and the horse more than anything. As long as they all come back safe and sound. You can get killed in cars of course, but you do know there is an element of danger in the National and you respect that.”
He does try not to get too wrapped up in superstition, knowing how some jockeys can barely get from their beds before applying some skewed logic. “Some trainers stand in the same spot to watch the race, but I try not to do it,” he said. “I did break my leg twice in a new pair of boots. But it’s silly things you can make up as much as you can, so you have to get rid of that thing. Jack Berry always had red socks. I’m beyond that.”
He enthuses about One for Arthur’s chances. “When you are the jockey, you think you are the most important person in the world and affecting everything,” he said. “As I get older, I realise the horse is 90 per cent of it, the trainer seven or eight and the rest the jockey.
“A famous trainer told me it takes a bad jockey to get one that should win beaten. If a jockey takes that attitude, he doesn’t get above himself.
“It’s all position, position. If he gets the right positions, Arthur will run well.”
“It’s like a striker,” he added. “You might be the best in the world but you are a waste of time if you don’t get into the right position to put the ball into the net.”