Alastair Down: cool dude in the saddle arrives bang on time for celebrations
First published on Sunday, January 6, 2013
A family torch lit at Chepstow over a half a century ago was still blazing bright yesterday when Monbeg Dude landed a momentous Welsh National victory for Michael Scudamore under a ride of blast-chilling cool from the unrivalled maestro of all hold-up merchants, Paul Carberry.
It was in 1957 that the great Michael Scudamore, still going strong in his 80s, won the Welsh National on Creeola and the flame was kept burning by Peter's four victories culminating in Carvill's Hill's magnificent performance in 1991. Many might have supposed it would be Tom who annexed the race for the third generation, but it was his exultant brother who beat him to it with Monbeg Dude, who you couldn't have picked up with radar for most of the race.
Sloppy at his fences early on when he hit three in a row, Carberry was still in his own little world somewhere near Brecon as they went down the far side for the final time, and I turned to the watcher on my right and said: "Monbeg Dude is absolutely steaming but he's a mile back."
But Carberry's mental clock ticks to an entirely different time zone than anyone else's and he just let Monbeg Dude do his own thing without the slightest sign of urgency or any suggestion there might be a winning post that needed to passed sometime in the next three minutes.
But just as he did at Cheltenham in November, Monbeg Dude travelled beautifully and oozed threat as Carberry slowly insinuated him into the race.
Michael Scudamore said: "At the last down the back I thought he might be fifth or sixth but Paul still hadn't moved and I began to think he might be fourth."
As they began the bend which brings them round to face Chepstow's long straight and its five fences, Monbeg Dude still had nine ahead of him and still no sign of a hurry-up from Carberry – but by now his mount was increasingly taking him there.
And his trainer, standing five yards in front of me in the paddock, began to sense the gods might be about to smile on him and, as befits a man who played rugby for a living, put up some athletic performance of his own as he pogoed dementedly up and down and was certainly getting a lot higher off the ground than Monbeg Dude was at his fences.
Monbeg Dude made a mistake four from home but by now there was an air of unstoppable momentum and nemesis about the red-and-white colours and, although AP McCoy was getting a second wind out of the gallant favourite Teaforthree, you somehow knew it would avail him naught.
Carberry produced his stalker to lead jumping the last. But he made yet another error and for a couple of strides Monbeg Dude and Teaforthree were barging away at each other before Carberry got him ahead, although he did nothing in front and AP closed him down to half a length at the post, by which time the winning trainer was virtually in orbit.
With two of his three rugby-playing owners present, and Michael no mean flanker for Ebbw Vale and Wales under 19s, it is fair to say there was a veritable scrum of delighted connections and among the gleeful throng was Maz Scudamore, happily playing proud mum.
It is rare in any sport for a family to operate at the top level for three consecutive generations and, given Tom has been the main flagbearer in recent years, you could excuse Michael a little brotherly one-upmanship when saying: "It's nice to get my name on this trophy before Tom. To be frank it's been a bad year with a lot of horses being taken away, but we have shown people today what we can do.
"What's the plan? To get to the pub as soon as possible!" I imagine it might be quite an evening down at the Dog and Duck – the sort of bedlam night where in the early hours they have to go round and bayonet the wounded. Monbeg Dude was bought at a Cheltenham evening sale by Mike Tindall, who would know his way round a pint mug and may indeed have had a couple of sharpeners by the time his hand went skywards. He will have made many a worse decision stone cold sober.
The decision to book Carberry was an inspiration of part-owner James Simpson-Daniel and proves that brawn does not preclude brains. The winning jockey acknowledged it was among his finest hours in the saddle, but whether he will be at the head of the queue to ride Monbeg Dude should he turn up at Aintree is another matter as you might want to book the Duke of Alberquerque's old bed at Walton Hospital by way of a precaution.
This was a super afternoon for a sporting family with a horse owned by genuine sportsmen. A fantastic way to enliven what is usually one of the dullest weekends of the jumps season – a tough winner trained by a man carrying an immortal National Hunt name and a cool dude in the saddle.
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