Martin Hannan: Scu meets his match

ON A CRISP morning a few hundred yards off the M90 near Milnathort, a face familiar to racegoers is set in concentration as he watches horses leave their stables for some extra work on a nearby sand gallop.

Peter Scudamore knows all about "extra" work. The eight-times National Hunt champion jockey was once apprenticed to a hard taskmaster, the late David Nicholson, and spent most of his career as stable jockey to a man who revolutionised the training of horses by making his animals and staff work much harder than at any other stable.

The legendary Martin Pipe, 15 times the champion trainer, was the man who made all the difference to Scudamore, now a happily adopted Scot ensconced at Arlary House stables in Kinross with his partner in life and training, Lucinda Russell. "I try not to dwell on my riding," said Scudamore, who retired from the saddle in 1993. "I know that my riding was down to Martin Pipe. I was lucky enough to be with him, and it was like being striker for a great football team. I think I did it well, but you have to keep your feet on the ground about that."

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Scudamore is being disingenuous. It wasn't all about Pipe, as you do not amass a total of 1,678 winners without being very special yourself. He may never have won a Gold Cup or Grand National, but two Champion Hurdles and a relentless consistency of excellence in the saddle made him the punter's friend, known to all simply as Scu, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After retiring, he had spells as assistant to Grand National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and his own father Michael, winner of the Grand National as a jockey aboard Oxo in 1959, and became one of the better racing pundits on television.

The Scudamore racing dynasty continues. Peter's son Tom is stable jockey to David Pipe – "people are telling me 'he's better at his age than you were'," said Scudamore – while his other son Michael has made a terrific start to his training career. He admits to giving advice to his sons almost on a daily basis and says he takes great satisfaction in seeing them succeed.

But Scudamore's main focus is on his role as assistant to Russell, whom he first met nearly three years ago. They became a couple not long afterwards, and Scudamore came north just over two years ago.

"People say the world revolves around the south-east of England but I love it up here," said Scudamore. "If I want to go to London I get on a plane at Edinburgh just down the road – living in a small island we are still small-minded at times. Being here has opened my horizons to all sorts of different things and people."

Lu and Scu form a good team because they complement each other, said Scudamore. "We are from similar backgrounds but her attention to detail is much greater than mine," he said. "Lucinda came into training from eventing, which is much more of an exacting background than with me from racing.

"She works so hard, she'll be here from first thing in the morning and she'll not leave till 9.30 at night. Last night she was bandaging one of the horses late at night. I get fed up of that stuff. I love looking at the entries, speaking to the riders who did the schooling, and doing the galloping – I just like the boys' things, basically.

"We train like Martin did, and if we are having an argument my comeback is 'Martin Pipe wouldn't have done that'. But Lucinda has that mentality, that attention to detail, and if I am ready to gallop off, she will just rein me back. It's one of the reasons it is working so well."

In total, the Arlarly stables have about 70 horses with 50 to 60 set to run this season. With Lenny Lungo virtually retired, Russell is Scotland's top National Hunt trainer of this season, with 14 winners already – well on her way to breaking last season's total of 31.

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Part of the Lu-Scu team's success is due to their team of work riders and fine young jockeys, including Peter Buchanan – "probably the best man I have seen on a horse at home in a racing yard," said Scudamore – amateur jockey Grant Cockburn, and conditional jockey Campbell Gillies, who has made a remarkable recovery from injuries sustained in a bad fall at Aintree which at least made him a star on YouTube. Dan Ockenden from the showjumping world has been another important addition with his schooling skills.

With increased backing from stable sponsors Isle of Skye whisky and a smart new website,, the Arlarly operation is set fair for the season, not least because of a hitherto secret weapon. Some 500 tons of sand has provided Russell with one of the very few deep sand gallops in the UK, and the dividend has been instant.

"We are putting the horses on it in addition to their normal work, and what we are finding is that it is making the horses stronger," said Russell. "They have an inner core of strength and are finishing their races better. They just hack round it four or five times each way, they go in quite deep and for young horses in particular it is good extra work. We started on it on 1 October and by the end of October our horses were starting to win."

With such a bright future forecast for the pair, Scudamore doesn't like to look back, though he has one regret: "I look at what AP McCoy has done and think that I wish I hadn't given up when I did, but then I have done so many things since. I didn't think I would get a kick out of this, but I do, and I have honestly never been happier."

The team of Lu and Scu is already being feared by the competition. Expect many more successful raids from their northern redoubt in future.


SILVER By Nature, owned by Geoff Brown, is a seven-year-old chaser and winner of five races to date: "For a recent win at Carlisle, the handicapper has punished him and put him up 13lbs to a rating of 136. He has to gain that kind of rating to get in the Welsh National, which is one of his goals this season along with the Scottish National", said Scudamore. "His grand dam was a horse call Dalkey Sound who was second in the Scottish National of 1992, outridden by a very fine jockey (Scudamore aboard Captain Dibble).

"Dalkey Sound was owned by Geoff Brown who says the only way he will forgive me is if Lucinda can train this horse to win the Scottish National at Ayr at the end of this season.

"If it's good ground or the softer side of good he could run at Ayr and the four miles would show his forte which is stamina as he's not the fastest horse going up the gallops. The fact that he is grey means that hopefully he will attract the attention of the Scottish public."

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Etxalar, owned by Elizabeth Ferguson, is a six-year-old gelding who won his first chase at Haydock recently: "He may be good enough for the Cheltenham Festival – if you don't dream in this job, you never get there."