TOM Scudamore is one of the more level-headed jockeys. It is not in his nature to make rash predictions. But, when he jumped off Grands Crus after the high-speed staying hurdler had won a second race inside six days, his smile was infectious.
"Even you could have won on him!" he cheekily told this correspondent after the six-year-old, trained by David Pipe, had beaten a high-quality field over Haydock's fixed brush hurdles by 18 lengths on the day Gold Cup victor Imperial Commander won his comeback race.
Scudamore, 28, was less sure about the horse's future plans – Grands Crus was originally due to go steeplechasing this season – but now this exciting prospect is set to take on the mighty Big Buck's in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
It will be a tall order. Big Buck's has won his last 10 races over hurdles, including successive renewals of Cheltenham's championship race for staying hurdlers. Undefeated since he came to grief at the final fence in the 2008 Hennessy Gold Cup, a race that Scudamore ironically won on Madison Du Berlais, the Paul Nicholls-trained horse has been described, by many, as "unbeatable".
Yet precisely the same word was used to describe Kauto Star's chances in last Saturday's King George VI Chase when the 11-year-old odds-on favourite could only plod home in a weary third place, a victim of old age and the Nicholls stable being out of form.
As such, Kauto Star's defeat offers hope to those who might, otherwise, have regarded themselves as also-rans – including connections of Grands Crus who, in comparison, has only run five times over hurdles and is a 12-1 chance to upset Big Buck's who, on current form, is arguably the best National Hunt horse in training.
"If anyone's going to beat him (Big Buck's) then I think it will be Grands Crus," said Scudamore who is currently sidelined with a kidney injury.
"Make no mistake; we're fully aware of the task in front of us. He's unbeaten over hurdles but every horse has to be beaten at some point and we're just hopeful it can be us.
"As was shown at the weekend with Kauto Star, no horse is unbeatable.
"Novice chasing was the plan but he was so impressive at Cheltenham and then at Haydock. He's got plenty of time left to go chasing so it will just be nice to see how good he can be over hurdles."
A striking grey, Grands Crus caught the eye when beating a quality field at Cheltenham's prestigious Paddy Power meeting six days before his memorable Haydock triumph.
Though no race is a steering job, this was one of the easiest victories in the burgeoning career of Scudamore whose father, Peter, was a multiple champion jockey and whose grandfather, Michael, won the 1959 Grand National aboard Oxo.
"The form of Grands Crus has worked out very well and he's extremely exciting – he felt like he improved from Cheltenham to Haydock," said Scudamore, stable jockey to Pipe.
"He'll have to take on the big boys now but certainly judging by his Haydock run he looks like he'll be up to the task. I imagine he'll have a run before Cheltenham – there are some suitable races coming up. David has paced him very well so far and I'll leave all the decisions up to him. I don't mind where he goes next – I'd follow him anywhere!"
Sidelined after being unseated from Far More Serious at Sandown 10 days ago, and then kicked in the kidneys by one of the pursuing horses, Scudamore hopes to return this weekend to build on the 46 winners that he has ridden this season.
Typically, he rode in the following two races before the extent of his injury became clear. And while, the diagnosis – a kidney tear – sounds serious, he's playing it down as he anticipates the reappearance of Grands Crus.
"I was never in that much discomfort – it felt like a bad stitch really," he added. "Fingers crossed, I might be back this weekend. And Grands Crus is definitely the horse I'm most looking forward to riding."