TOM SCUDAMORE has raced against the best and draws quiet personal satisfaction from the fact that he lined up against two all-time greats in Kauto Star and Denman during steeplechasing’s golden era. He even beat the latter on two memorable occasions.
Yet, while these once-in-a-generation headline horses are enjoying a well-deserved retirement, Scudamore says the absence of a people’s favourite should not diminish from the quality and competitiveness of a wide-open three-mile chase division.
The 32-year-old was speaking ahead of today’s Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park when his own champion, Dynaste, will attempt to atone for last year’s narrow defeat to Cue Card, who set a remorseless pace from the very start and was never headed.
With last year’s third Silviniaco Conti, the conqueror of both Cue Card and Dynaste in the William Hill King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, also returning to the fray at Merseyside, Scudamore says the strength in depth to the steeplechasing ranks should not be discounted.
“I thought last year’s Betfair Chase was one of the best races I have ever ridden in,” Scudamore told The Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview.
“Kauto Star and Denman were exceptional, and were in a different league, but last year’s race was as good a race as any.
“They went such a strong gallop from the off and Cue Card simply didn’t stop. If Sprinter Sacre had not been around, Cue Card would have won a Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival by now. Yet it is a measure of the horse’s class that he can win a Grade One over three miles. The good horses can do anything.
“As Silviniaco’s jockey Noel Fehily said, the three horses are so closely matched that there can be a different outcome every time they race – they are all capable of beating each other.
“It is whoever is fit and well on the day, that is the key. The fact it is wide open, and you had a relative outsider in Lord Windermere win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, makes it just as exciting as the Denman and Kauto Star era.”
One imponderable today could be the fact that Dynaste has not raced since being narrowly beaten by Silviniaco Conti at Aintree’s Betfred Bowl in April, while his two great rivals both have points to prove following their respective seasonal reappearances.
Menorah, Taquin Du Seuil, Double Ross and Medermit were all too good for the Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti in Wetherby’s showpiece bet365 Charlie Hall Chase on November 1 and the reappearance of all four in the Betfair Chase brings added lustre to this encounter.
Three days later and Cue Card was a leg-weary fourth in Exeter’s Haldon Gold Cup – his first race since a stress fracture earlier in the year – but the race was nearly a mile shorter than today’s trip.
However, Scudamore has no doubts about Dynaste’s form and fitness – the horse’s trainer David Pipe has proved, time and again, that he is the master of getting horses right on the day and the jockey can not wait to be reunited with the galloping grey who was foot perfect when winning the Grade One Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March.
He was not afraid to hide his emotions as he passed the winning line.
“He deserved to win a Grade One over fences and you take it personally when people knock good horses like Dynaste when they are beaten,” said Scudamore.
“Touch wood, he’s a very economical jumper and he has a lot of scope. I’ve been fortunate enough to be placed in the last three Gold Cups on The Giant Bolster. If he jumped like Dynaste, he would have won a Gold Cup by now.”
It may surprise some race followers that Scudamore very rarely rides the dynamic Dynaste on the gallops at home – horse and jockey have had one solitary spin this autumn. Yet, in a fascinating insight, he said it is best to entrust this responsibility to the horse’s work rider.
“There are horses that can be superstars on the track, but do nothing at home,” said the rider who cites the 2008 Hennessy on Madison du Berlais and this year’s Arkle Trophy on Western Warhorse as his career highlights.
“The main thing with horses is they are different from one day to the next, and that is why continuity is so important.”