The Scudamores: production line rolls on for family of jumps legends
Steve Dennis looks at a surname that has been a constant presence
First published on Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The Scudamore name runs through the last 60 years of jump racing like a golden thread in a rich tapestry.
Three generations of the family have been successful jockeys – two exceptionally so – and their names are in the record books for all to see. The younger members of the clan have time on their side as they bid to put themselves in the same position.
Whatever your age, the headlines in the sporting press will have involved a Scudamore one way or another, a constant presence in an inconstant world, a comforting feeling that some things just never change at all.
How it all started
Geoffrey Scudamore, Michael snr's father, rode in point-to-points in the 1920s and 1930s before serving in the RAF during the second world war. He spent two years in a prisoner-of-war camp and took out a full training licence on his return to Britain.
As a rider he had been associated with the prolific point winner Sawfish, trained by Martin 'Scot Lane' Tate's father, who Michael recalls winning at Colwall Park and prompting the form book comment 'jumped well, made all, spectacular'. Michael made his point-to-point debut at the age of 14, with Geoffrey riding in the same race.
As a trainer, Geoffrey's finest hour came when he saddled the outsider Sir Charles to win a division of the 1950 Gloucester Hurdle (the forerunner of the Supreme Novices'), ridden by Michael snr.
Michael snr and his son Peter both enjoyed highly illustrious careers in the saddle, one being noted more for quality and the other for overwhelming quantity.
Michael won the 1956 King George VI Chase on Rose Park (trained by Peter Cazalet), the 1957 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Linwell (Ivor Herbert) and the 1959 Grand National on the Willie Stephenson-trained Oxo, whose victory in the great race involved one of those enduring stories for which the race is so renowned.
Michael rode virtually the whole of the second circuit at Aintree alongside Tim Brookshaw on Wyndburgh, whose stirrup leather snapped at the second Becher's. Brookshaw had to complete the course without irons and, although Oxo and Wyndburgh jumped the last together, Brookshaw's great efforts were ultimately in vain – Oxo and Scudamore prevailing by a length and a half.
"I might have beaten him anyway," says Scudamore. "It didn't help me that I had to send Oxo to the front too soon, which Willie Stephenson wasn't very happy about afterwards, even though we'd won."
Michael's Cheltenham Festival wins included the Arkle Chase (Greektown), Cathcart Chase (Amber Wave and Panisse), the Triumph Hurdle (Square Dance) and another division of the Gloucester Hurdle with Greektown. The best horse he rode was probably Gold Cup and dual Hennessy winner Mandarin, on whom he won the Broadway Chase (now the RSA Chase).
"Mandarin was a very good horse," he says. "But I thought Linwell was underrated for a Gold Cup winner.
"When he won at Cheltenham he beat Kerstin, who won the Gold Cup the following year. The next season there was a new race at Cheltenham in November called the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup [later moved to Newbury].
"Linwell carried 12st 2lb – giving 16lb to Mandarin – and was only beaten three lengths into second place. He never got the credit he deserved."
After his career as a jockey came to an end Michael took out a training licence, with highlights being the victories of Bruslee in the 1974 Mackeson Gold Cup and Fortina's Palace in the 1970 Grand Annual Chase, a race he had won as a jockey nine years earlier on Barberyn.
Peter, on the other hand, won neither Gold Cup, King George nor Grand National during his career, but in the course of its 15-year span he rewrote the record books in respect of winners ridden, thanks in great part to his association with perennial champion trainer Martin Pipe.
Peter was champion jockey eight times (one of those titles shared with John Francome) and rode 1,678 winners, at the time of his retirement a record for a jump jockey. His milestone has been subsequently surpassed by Richard Dunwoody, Richard Johnson and Tony McCoy as jump racing has expanded to become a year-round sport with a consequent increase in the number of fixtures.
Pipe's horses were exceptionally fit and one of the hallmarks of jump racing in the late 1980s and early 1990s was the sight of Peter 20 lengths clear in the first half of the race, setting a gallop that only his mount was able to sustain. In the 1988-89 season Peter rode 221 winners, a colossal tally that left the greats of the past looking like part-timers in comparison.
No other jockey had previously exceeded 150 winners in one season so Peter's mighty tally was a seismic achievement, one that helped redraw the parameters of what was possible in the sport.
It was not all about numbers, either. Peter won the Champion Hurdle twice (Celtic Shot and Granville Again) and the Champion Chase (Pearlyman) among 13 festival successes that included three wins in what is now the RSA Chase (Rolling Ball, Miinnehoma, Young Hustler).
Other major wins included the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup (Strands Of Gold, Chatam), Mackeson Gold Cup (Pegwell Bay), Welsh National (Run And Skip, Bonanza Boy – twice, Carvill's Hill) and Scottish National (Little Polveir, Captain Dibble). In retirement he was awarded an MBE for services to racing and later became a fixture of the BBC TV racing coverage.
Peter's son Tom has risen through the ranks to become a top-ten jockey, although major championship success has thus far eluded him. His most notable triumphs have been gained in the Hennessy Gold Cup (Madison Du Berlais), Victor Chandler Chase (Tamarinbleu) and the William Hill Trophy (An Accordion, his only festival winner). He has also enjoyed an emotional and rewarding partnership with the thoroughly admirable hurdler Lough Derg.
He has ridden more than 500 winners during his career, recorded his best seasonal score of 73 in 2009-10 and was champion amateur in 2001.
His younger brother, Michael, has just begun to establish himself in the training ranks, admitting that he "had no desire to be a jockey, I always wanted to go into the training side".
Once an open-side flanker in the Wales under-21 rugby squad and a talented junior cricketer, Michael has trained almost 50 winners in three seasons with a dual-purpose licence.
The Scudamore women should not be forgotten – Peter's sister, Nicola, rode successfully in point-to-points, as has Tom's wife Charlotte.
The worst of times
Michael snr may have been fortunate with injuries for much of his career, but the crashing fall he endured at Wolverhampton in 1966 saw his luck run out on a permanent basis.
His mount slipped up on a bend and Michael was trampled. His record of never breaking a limb remained intact, but he sustained dreadful facial injuries.
"I was kicked in the face," he says. "I used to be good-looking, you know! I broke my jaw, my nose, my cheekbones, my palate.
"It didn't hurt so much because everything was numb, my whole head went numb. It all mended in time, of course, but after that I had only partial sight in one eye and the doctors said enough was enough.
"I was only 34 and I loved riding so much that I'd hoped to carry on for three or four more years. My eyesight hasn't bothered me, really − although my cricket-playing was never quite the same again."
Their impact on the sport
The impact of the Scudamores is self-evident given their achievements and if Michael jnr trains a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, he'll become the fifth Scudamore to be successful at the great spring meeting. However, even though Michael snr is the only member of the family to ride a Grand National winner, the Aintree race runs deep through the family.
Michael's record of riding in 16 consecutive Nationals (1951-66) is unsurpassed, although Peter came close with an unbroken run of 13 (1981-93), his best finishing position third place on Corbiere in 1985. Tom has had ten consecutive rides in the race (2001-10).
The family also contrived to carve a niche in the sport's annals when three generations rode in the same race at Wincanton in October 1998.
The race, a Flat contest for celebrity riders, was won by Michael snr aboard Barneys Bell, with Peter seventh and Tom ninth. The winning jockey said: "I've ridden in three races like this since I retired and to be able to ride in the same race as Peter and Thomas is like a dream come true."
What the future holds
The Scudamore dynasty is likely to have considerable influence over the coming years, as Michael jnr builds up his stable and Tom continues to ride for the powerful David Pipe yard. Peter is assistant to Borders trainer Lucinda Russell, his partner, and the ongoing success of that stable will keep Peter's name well to the fore.
It is too soon to say whether another generation will continue the Scudamore dynasty in the sport but, given previous form, it appears more than likely.
The Scudamore story has many more years to run and the future may yet be as glittering as the past.
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