Peter Scudamore senses Newbury winner Ahoy Senor is destined for the top

PETER Scudamore was proud to ride many great racehorses during a career that yielded 1,678 winners and eight titles.

This was Ahoy Senor and Derek Fox landing the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury on Saturday, with former champion jockey Peter Scudamore hopeful that the partnership is destined for the top.

Yet training horses to big-races successes, first with Nigel Twiston-Davies and now with his partner Lucinda Russell in Scotland, is just as difficult and satisfying.

He and Russell trained the tragically ill-fated Brindisi Breeze to Grade One success at Cheltenham in 2012 before winning the Grand National with One For Arthur in 2017.

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But even Scudamore was taken aback by the dominant manner of the front-running Ahoy Senor’s 31-length victory in the Grade Two Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury on Saturday that celebrated his great weighing room friend and rival.

This was Ahoy Senor and Derek Fox landing the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury on Saturday, with former champion jockey Peter Scudamore hopeful that the partnership is destined for the top.

A shock winner of an Aintree Grade One over hurdles in April, Ahoy Senor unseated his rider on his chase debut at Carlisle in a race won by Fiddlerontheroof, who went on to finish second to Cloudy Glen, owned by the late Trevor Hemmings, in the feature Ladbrokes Trophy on the same card.

And while Ahoy Senor’s jumping can still improve – he bunny hopped Newbury’s water jump – this imposing win under Derek Fox was another timely tonic for Northern jump racing after Sue Smith’s Midnight Shadow took Cheltenham’s Paddy Power Gold Cup a fortnight ago and Aye Right landed Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase on Saturday for Borders trainer Harriet Graham and jockey Callum Bewley.

The Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, and a mouth-watering clash with the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame, appears next on the agenda, with Scudamore hopeful that Ahoy Senor is destined for the top.

“You are [training] in Scotland and you seem a little bit of an underdog. And then, when I was watching him work, I said to the owners ‘this horse is as good as I have dealt with’, but then, when you get close to the time, I thought ‘I wish I hadn’t opened my mouth!’,” he reflected.

This was Ahoy Senor and Derek Fox landing the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury on Saturday, with former champion jockey Peter Scudamore hopeful that the partnership is destined for the top.

“I wish I just said ‘he’s OK’, but you say it with belief at the time and you get nervous. He has got far bigger mountains to climb, but I have never seen a horse or any athlete with as much enthusiasm about his business.

“He just loves it. You watch him walk, he has a presence about him, he has his ears pricked. He is not stupid, he just wants to get on with it. How far he can go, I don’t know, but today was a nice marker to lay down in what looks a competitive division.

“I have been through all this before. After all these years in the game, it’s amazing how this can get you so wound up and so excited about a horse. They are very humbling.

“We took him to Aintree last season and he won and that could have been a fluke, but his jumping was obviously there. There is no fuss when he goes up the gallops, nothing can lay up with him. Either mine are all useless or he is just on a different level.”

This was Ahoy Senor and Derek Fox landing the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury on Saturday, with former champion jockey Peter Scudamore hopeful that the partnership is destined for the top.

Thistlecrack – ridden by Scudamore’s son Tom – famously bolted up in the corresponding race in 2016 before landing the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Yet, while Scudamore senior is uncertain how Ahoy Senor would compare to that particular star, he says three-mile chasing’s new novice star compares favourably with Earth Summit and Bindaree who won Grand Nationals when he was was in partnership with the aforementioned Twiston-Davies.

“Whether he’s a Thistlecrack or not, I don’t know, but he is the best we’ve dealt with, including Earth Summit and Bindaree,” said Scudamore, 63, with characteristic enthusiasm and knowledge.

“It is what the game needs. He did it at Carlisle and I hadn’t really noticed it before, but the crowd gasps when he jumps and they did it here.

“Maybe he’s better on these flat tracks, but it was good.

“I suppose it is my stupidity to be in this game after so many years, but I said to Lucinda this morning ‘this is the most important day of our lives!’.

“She told me not to be so stupid, but that is what they make you feel.

“You are in awe of them, just to see what they can do, but he is in a hot division, so it is wonderful for us poor little people up in Scotland.”

After Kempton, Scudamore expects Ahoy Senor to head to Cheltenham – form and fitness permitting – next March for the three-mile novice chase.

He added: “At the beginning of the season, we thought we might try to get him to something like the Towton Chase [at Wetherby], because I think that is a good step.

“I suppose he will go to Cheltenham one day.

“How we get him to Cheltenham one day, I don’t know. It will probably be this season. I’m not Paul Nicholls – I don’t have the experience to take these horses down that line.”

Meanwhile, Honeysuckle, last season’s Champion Hurdle heroine, extended her unbeaten record to 13 races by landing the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse under Rachael Blackmore.

Even though the Henry de Bromhead-trained hurdler excelled at Cheltenham over two miles, Honeysuckle proved her dominance by winning at ease over two and a half miles.

Honeysuckle and Blackmore were given a rapturous reception – further proof of their burgeoning popularity.