Scudamore keeping his cool

Tom Scudamore is determined to contain his excitement for the next five weeks after the “tremendous” performance which has given Cloth Cap a stranglehold on the Randox Grand National market.

Scudamore’s grandfather Michael was a Grand National winner on Oxo 62 years ago – but his father, eight-time champion jockey Peter, was then luckless in the Aintree showpiece throughout his career.

Scudamore himself has also yet to win the race – with a best finishing position of sixth, on perennial contender Vieux Lion Rouge in 2017 – while Cloth Cap’s owner Trevor Hemmings will be bidding for a record-breaking fourth success next month, and trainer Jonjo O’Neill has his own Aintree history, including Don’t Push It’s 2010 victory.

Cloth Cap has all of them dreaming, having followed up his Ladbrokes Trophy romp in November with an all-the-way success too in Saturday’s bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso.

His jockey is, however, doing his best to stay focused on what he can control – on April 10 in Liverpool, and through the intervening weeks too.

“It would be great,” Scudamore said, at the prospect of winning the National.

“But you’re trying not to get too carried away. There’s plenty of racing in between – a big week at Cheltenham coming up, for starters.

“I wouldn’t be one to get carried away too far with it – we’ll just get on, go and do the business as best we can.”

There was no hiding his delight, though, at Cloth Cap’s Kelso performance – triumphing by more than seven lengths over just short of three miles, and making a mockery of official ratings which suggested he should instead have finished last of five.

“It was a tremendous prep run – a nice race in its own right, and he beat some very good horses,” Scudamore added.

“Obviously we had a bit to find at the weights. But he did it very well, and at this stage he’s a worthy favourite (for the National).”

Cloth Cap has demonstrated significant improvement since three new factors coincided at Newbury – where Scudamore rode him for the first time, on his preferred good ground, with a switch to front-running tactics.

“The handicapper’s going to have his say on Tuesday, and if the weights were done again we’d be carrying a lot more,” Scudamore said, of a horse nestling on 10st 5lb next month.

“We’ll know more on Tuesday. But obviously it’s a lovely position to be in – we’re going to be ahead of the handicapper.

“But there’s still a fair time to go. A lot can change – we’re still five, six weeks away.”

He is mindful that others could yet prove they too are well-handicapped.

“Who knows, if Santini wins the Gold Cup by half the track, then he might be better in than us!” Scudamore added.

“But from Cloth Cap’s point of view, he can’t have done any more.”

He acknowledges that conditions will be important, but was pleased with how the nine-year-old adapted to comparative ease in the ground this weekend.

“It was good ground at Newbury,” said Scudamore.

“(But) the ground was soft enough yesterday, quite tacky, and he’s handled that fine.

“Obviously, you’d want nice ground for the National – but we’re not in control of those things.

“Jonjo and everybody at Jackdaws (Castle) had him in fine fettle, and they know what it takes.”

He is playing down his own contribution so far too – and credits O’Neill with the decision to ride the 2019 Scottish Grand National third prominently for the first time.

“That was down to Jonjo really,” said Scudamore.

“He just said ‘he jumps and he stays’. Both times he’s been able to go a gallop, and he can maintain it – he’s obviously got form over four miles, from the Scottish National.

“Jonjo thinks the horse has matured an awful lot in the last year.

“I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time (to pick up the ride with Richie McLernon unavailable at Newbury), and it’s worked out, so I’m very grateful to connections for that.

“Everyone at Jackdaws has done all the hard work.”

Source : Sky Sports