WHEN World Cup-winning rugby union player Mike Tindall successfully bid £12,000 for Monbeg Dude at an auction while slightly worse for wear, teetotal trainer Michael Scudamore did not even have a horse box to take the new acquisition back to his stables.
Little did he know that the impromptu purchase in February 2010 by Otley-born Tindall, with fellow internationals James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson cajoled with the trainer into buying a leg each, would begin a remarkable odyssey which would culminate with Welsh National glory and a meritorious third in the Grand National.
“My first concern was getting home to get the van in order to pick up the horse,” revealed Scudamore after confirming that his stable star has been retired following a niggling long-term injury sustained when chasing home Many Clouds in the 2015 National. “By the time we got the horse home, it was definitely past midnight, but it’s been a wonderful journey.”
Serendipity played its part. Scudamore, whose family are steeped in racing, had initially headed to the Cheltenham sales to look for horses for another owner. When this deal failed to materialise, he ended up joining Tindall and the rugby star’s future wife Zara Phillips, the Queen’s grand-daughter, for a dinner that became more memorable as the evening progressed.
And what an inspired buy it proved. Two emotional victories at Cheltenham when the horse was ridden by the trainer’s brother Tom; a Welsh National success when ‘The Dude’ was nursed into the Chepstow marathon by a nerveless Paul Carberry, and two gallant efforts over Aintree’s world-famous National fences as the horse amassed more than £260,000 in prize money for his connections.
“Without him, we would not have some of the nice horses like Next Sensation (2015 Cheltenham Festival winner) or Mysteree, who won at Haydock on Saturday and could be a National horse in time,” Scudamore told The Yorkshire Post.
“If it wasn’t for him, we’d just be tootling along with what we have and not going to the bigger meetings. We always threw ‘The Dude’ in at the deep end and he has always got himself there or thereabouts.”
The Tindalls will now provide a permanent home for Monbeg Dude at the Gloucestershire estate, which is the country residence of the Princess Royal.
Scudamore said: “There are some mixed feelings. In one way, it’s sad to retire him, but after the good days we had with him and all the great memories he gave us, it’s nice to see him go out in one piece and hopefully have a very long and happy retirement.
“He will be going to Gatcombe with Zara and Mike and I think the plan is turn him out with Toytown, the horse Zara won the world eventing title on. Hopefully they will be great mates.
“He’s just got a niggle from the injury he sustained in the Grand National last year and if you gave him more time, he would be fine.
“He’s 11, rising 12, now, though, so by the time you got him back, he would be going on 13, which just would not be fair to the horse.
“It’s great to see him going to a happy retirement, but he will certainly leave a big hole in the yard.
“We’ve had some great days with him and the thing about him was that he wasn’t bred to be a superstar. He didn’t cost a lot of money but he was a really tough performer.”
Meanwhile Scudamore’s aforementioned brother Tom is looking forward to two mouth-watering rides at Newbury on Saturday.
As well as riding Thistlecrack, ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in a novice chase, he rides David Pipe’s highly-regarded Un Temps Pour Tout in the Hennessy Gold Cup, one of jump racing’s most prestigious handicaps.
Victorious at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, the 2015 French Champion Hurdle victor made a winning seasonal reappearance over hurdles at Aintree and the jockey believes the horse has already more than vindicated his purchase price of £430,000.
He said: “Cheltenham was a great day, he’s a horse with a tremendous amount of ability and it would be nice if he could go and top it off with a Hennessy. Given the success he’s had, his price-tag is irrelevant. I think he’s put that to bed over the years, he’s been a fantastic horse for the yard.
“There are plenty of horses that are expensive out there, but he’s not only talked the talk, he’s walked the walk. He’s a Grade One winner, a Cheltenham Festival winner and it would be lovely to think he could be a Hennessy winner.”
North Yorkshire jockey Brian Hughes continued his rich vein of form with a four-timer at Sedgefield. It came a week after in-form Hughes, the most prolific rider on current form, rode five winners at Musselburgh.
Middleham trainer Simon West’s stable star Maximiser is on course to reappear at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting.
Ground conditions will determine whether the horse lines up over hurdles or fences. Cheltenham’s RSA Chase next March is the ultimate target.