Family honour is at stake for the Scudamores

Trainer Michael Scudamore, centre, and part owners Mike Tindall, right, and James Simpson-Daniel  with Monbeg Dude (Picture: David Davies/PA Wire).
Trainer Michael Scudamore, centre, and part owners Mike Tindall, right, and James Simpson-Daniel with Monbeg Dude (Picture: David Davies/PA Wire).
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EVEN though they are brothers and best friends who talk incessantly about turf matters every day of the year, Tom and Michael Scudamore will be the friendliest of rivals when they attempt to uphold family honour today in the Crabbie’s Grand National.

Fifty-five years after their grandfather Michael, one of the great names of British jump racing, conquered Aintree on Oxo, they will both be attempting to earn their place on the National roll of honour.

This is not a new experience for Tom, who is enjoying a career-best season as jockey and is on the 98-winner mark. Today’s ride on the well-backed and lightly-raced The Package is his 13th attempt to match the stirring feats of his grandfather. He has never finished closer than eighth.

Yet he has also been instrumental in the career of Monbeg Dude, who is trained by his younger brother on the Welsh border near Ross-on-Wye, and whom he partnered to an emotional victory at Cheltenham earlier in the season.

Co-owned by Otley-born rugby international Mike Tindall, and tutored in the art of steeplechasing by the World Cup winner’s Royal wife, Zara Phillips, this is the youngest Scudamore’s first attempt at winning the National.

And he cannot wait for the challenge after Monbeg Dude, last season’s Welsh National winner, completed his Aintree build-up with a creditable fifth in Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase behind Keith and James Reveley’s Night In Milan.

“He’s in great form and I couldn’t be happier where he is,” said the youngest member of the Scudamore family. “He’s sharpened up a lot for his Doncaster outing and we are really pleased where he is at the moment. It’s a great race and is the one race racing people and non-racing people seem to get behind.”

As children, both Tom and Michael Scudamore would be familiar figures in the Aintree weighing room as they watched their father Peter – the eight-times champion jockey – go into battle each year.

Despite his prolific record, the closest that he came to victory was in 1985 when he was third to the Anne, Duchess of Westminster-owned Last Suspect on Jenny Pitman’s Corbiere, who had won two years previously.

However, the least known member of the Scudamore dynasty should not be dismissed lightly, even though he only has a handful of horses and only acquired Monbeg Dude when a slightly inebriated Tindall bid £12,000 for the horse at a sales evening at Cheltenham in January, 2010.

The purchase was so unexpected that the trainer had to drive home to fetch a horse trailer for the new acquisition.

“A Scudamore has had some involvement in a National for a fair few years now and I remember that every time Tom and I went to stay with grandad when we were young, we would ask what it was like to win the race. His stories were fantastic,” said Scudamore.

“I remember going to Aintree as kids and dad riding there. I just remember the excitement around it and always going there every year hoping that dad would eventually do it, but sadly not.”

An aspiring rugby player for Wales in his younger days after his weight left him too heavy to pursue a career as a jockey, it helps that Scudamore has a very close bond with Tindall as well as fellow players James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson, who were both persuaded to become unlikely owners.

“I’ve not been feeling much pressure really. This horse has been a great servant to us and he doesn’t owe us anything. There is a bit more interest because of who’s involved. That’s not our fault,” he said.

The trainer recalled it was his brother who first thought Monbeg Dude could be a horse to go to war with in a National. “I think it was his second start over fences, Tom rode him to finish third round Newbury and said to us that day he gave the impression he was going to be a National horse,” he said.

“He said he couldn’t tell us whether that would be the Welsh, Scottish, English or what, but that was the first time we really knew he was going to be stayer and you just hoped he’d be good enough one day to get in the race.

“He just seems to be coming to himself and I think we will see a very different horse to the one we saw at Doncaster. I’m really pleased how he is. The timing of Doncaster was the beauty of it. It wasn’t where we wanted to go, but we just felt we had to get him out that weekend and because of that he’s had a really nice break and goes into the race fresh and well.”

As for his brother, who recorded a career highlight last month with three Cheltenham Festival winners, he believes The Package could be coming into his own at the age of 11.

Yet, while The Package’s victory would be the culmination of his own career in racing, he will be the very first to congratulate Paul Carberry if Monbeg Dude is first past the post.

And he also knows what it would mean to Michael Scudamore, whose acumen as a trainer has not always been rewarded with the quality of horses that his talent deserves. Today could change that.