Tom Scudamore hopes to maintain family honour in the King George on Boxing Day. Tom Richmond spoke to the jockey about a compelling big race and his chances with the gallant grey Dynaste.
TOM Scudamore has had the privilege of racing against the greats of steeplechasing thanks to his association with Madison Du Berlais – the horse which helped carry the jockey to the top and continue a racing dynasty headed by his grandfather Michael and father Peter.
Horse and rider were second, albeit 36 lengths in arrears, when Kauto Star won a fourth William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton four years ago in imperious style.
Scudamore and Madison Du Berlais, who tragically succumbed to colic earlier this month, twice claimed the scalp of Kauto Star’s bullocking stablemate Denman.
Scudamore’s winning ride on his old favourite in the 2008 Hennessy changed the course of racing history – Big Buck’s parted company ingloriously with the unfortunate Sam Thomas at the final fence which prompted Paul Nicholls to switch his stable star back to hurdles and begin a winning streak that currently stands at 18 consecutive wins.
Yet the 31-year-old believes last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock was comparable to these contests against jump racing’s hall-of-fame horses as he – and galloping grey Dynaste – bid to reverse the form with Cue Card in a compelling King George on Boxing Day.
Even though Kauto Star was retired after his record-breaking fifth win two years ago, and dual King George hero Long Run has floundered in his two runs this season, Scudamore believes the new generation of chasers – Dynaste, Cue Card and the Nicholls-trained pair of Al Ferof and 2012 Charlie Hall winner Silviniaco Conti – can become worthy successors to past greats.
He also says the developing rivalry is so compelling because the horses are so evenly matched as he, and Dynaste, bid to overturn their four-and-a-half length defeat to Cue Card at Haydock.
“I’ve been fortunate to ride in many of the big races, but that was as good a race as I’ve been in,” explained Scudamore.
“I’ve been lucky enough to ride against Kauto Star and Denman but this race had it all – and we went at a relentless pace from the off.
“I didn’t feel that Cue Card had it his own way bowling along at the front. Roi Du Mee, a Grade One winner at Down Royal, went out there to try and take him on and he was exhausted after a circuit. We didn’t pause for breath all the way round. It was relentless and Bobs Worth, the current Gold Cup winner, couldn’t get into the race.
“Next, Long Run came to take him on and then turning for home Silviniaco Conti went upsides. At that stage, I was hoping to keep something back for the finish and believing that Silviniaco Conti would get Cue Card working and that I might be able to pick up the pieces, but instead Cue Card just quickened up again and I had to get after him.
“At the second-last fence, I thought we might still get to him but Cue Card found even more. It was a fantastic performance.”
There were no complaints from Scudamore – he was, typically, the first to congratulate the emotional father and son team of Colin and Joe Tizzard, who had trained and ridden the victor.
In many respects, this victory was emblematic of the 2013-14 season – the Moore, Twiston-Davies, Skelton and Scudamore families have also been among those to team up and enjoy major victories on successive weekends.
Beforehand, many were doubtful whether Cue Card, the winner of the Cheltenham Bumper in 2010 and the Ryanair Chase at this year’s Festival, had the scope and stamina for three miles. Now he is one of the favourites for the 2014 Gold Cup.
The question, however, is whether Cue Card can replicate this career-best performance – he is trained on a West Country dairy farm for unassuming owners – at Kempton when the Tizzard stable has been under a slight cloud with horses running below expectations.
There is also the fact that Cue Card had had the beneficiary of a prep race at Exeter while Dynaste was making his seasonal reappearance after a successful novice campaign that saw him take the Grade One Feltham Novices Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day last week before ending the season in style at Aintree.
“If you can’t look forward to these races, you shouldn’t be in the job,” said Scudamore, who is already on the 63-winner mark for the season, and harbours dreams of a first century of successes, thanks to his alliance with David Pipe.
“I haven’t sat on Dynaste – Sarah Buckley rides him every day – but he looks fantastic. It’s better for the same person to ride the horse each day so they can detect any subtle differences and so on.
“He’s just a classy horse. He was effortless at times last year, but he’s shown that he can mix it with the big boys, which is what we were hoping before Haydock. He was as fit as we could get him – and we are hoping that he will have come on for the run.
“It’s not just Dynaste and Cue Card. Al Ferof only beat French Opera at Ascot but that looks good form after the (Nicky) Henderson horse won at Cheltenham. Silviniaco Conti was going well in the Gold Cup until coming down at the third last.
“It’s so open that you could run the race five or six times and get five or six different results; that is why it is such an exciting race.”
Even though the rider’s father Peter, a multiple champion jockey, never won a King George, Scudamore has not been short of advice from his grandfather – and biggest fan – Michael, who won the 1956 renewal on Rose Park. “Apparently, it was one of the greatest rides of the 20th century, well grandad says so and he’s the one who matters,” jokes Scudamore, who recently enjoyed an emotional win at Cheltenham on his brother Michael’s Monbeg Dude, who is now ante-post favourite for next April’s Crabbies Grand National at Aintree.
“Rose Park was a two-miler and no-one thought he would get the trip. No-one got anywhere near him. And it was a spare ride!”
There is no chance that Tom Scudamore will replicate those tactics – he is expecting Cue Card to set the pace.
“You always want to be associated with the champions and Dynaste certainly could be one,” he added. “But I’d have said the same thing about Grands Crus who won the Feltham in 2011 and was third in the King George a year ago, so it’s one thing to say it and another to go out and do it on the track. That is why it is so exciting.”