How brav­ery be­came the Scu­d­amore mid­dle name

Nick Townsend talks to Peter Scu­d­amore about his re­mark­able Na­tional Hunt fam­ily

The Racing Paper - - Feature - The Scu­d­amores: Three of a Kind (Rac­ing Post Books) £25

Rarely can a man have been faced with such con­flict­ing loy­al­ties. It was a near-im­pos­si­ble choice for Peter Scu­d­amore as the field set off for last year’s Ran­dox Health Grand Na­tional. Should he train his eyes on his son Tom, part­ner­ing David Pipe’s Vieux Lion Rouge, or should they be fo­cussed on One For Arthur, the horse he helped train in Scot­land as as­sis­tant to his part­ner Lucinda Rus­sell?

Per­haps in part be­cause ‘Arthur’ was in the rear un­til mak­ing re­lent­less late progress un­der Derek Fox, Peter’s eyes ini­tially fol­lowed Thomas, as he prefers to call him. How he rel­ished the prospect of his son claim­ing a race that he had never won as a jockey, but which his late fa­ther Michael had won on Oxo in 1959.

Fourth at the Canal turn and gal­lop­ing strongly, Peter ad­mired his son’s rid­ing, but now also ad­mits that a fa­ther’s pro­tec­tive in­stincts are om­nipresent, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing an event in which eight of the 40 rid­ers will hit the turf. “You keep telling your­self: ‘they’re not go­ing to get hurt, they’re not go­ing to get hurt’,” he says. “But at the same time, you’re al­ways wor­ried and want to make sure they get round safe and sound.”

It was not un­til eight min­utes into the race that ‘Arthur’ loomed into con­tention be­fore strid­ing pow­er­fully home – a first Na­tional tri­umph for a Scot­tish-trained run­ner in nearly four decades. Tom and Vieux Lion Rouge fin­ish safely enough – but sixth.

“I’d have been thrilled for him if he’d won it. Thomas was thrilled for me,” says Peter. “Once a jockey, you never re­ally lose it. I’m liv­ing it again through Thomas, and my fa­ther lived it again through me.”

The Scu­d­amores may not be quite as deadly as The So­pra­nos, but they have been a pow­er­ful pres­ence for seven decades within Na­tional Hunt rac­ing, through pa­tri­arch Michael, a Grand Na­tional-win­ning jockey who be­came a suc­cess­ful trainer; Peter, the eight-times cham­pion jockey, who now as­sists Rus­sell at her Kin­ross sta­bles, and Tom, most closely as­so­ci­ated with Colin Tiz­zard’s mighty Thistle­crack. Peter’s other son Michael is also a trainer at his late grand­fa­ther’s Brom­sash, Here­ford­shire yard.

In­evitably, the home of the Grand Na­tional lies deep in the Scu­d­amore psy­che. It is rare for a Na­tional to not in­volve a Scu­d­amore in some ca­pac­ity. Since 1952, Michael, Peter and Tom have col­lec­tively com­peted 44 times in the Ain­tree spec­tac­u­lar and in the newly-pub­lished book The Scu­d­amores: Three of a Kind there is a com­pelling and ut­terly can­did jux­ta­po­si­tion of their ca­reers, from the per­specwere tive of all three men, start­ing with anal­y­sis of the 1959 and 2017 Na­tion­als.

The Scu­d­amore gene pool cer­tainly has yielded a sur­feit of tal­ent, and Peter was no ex­cep­tion. “Maybe if I’d been brought up in the city and kicked a foot­ball or had a pen in my hand I might have been some­thing else. But I was given the sit­u­a­tion. It must have been a bit of genes and a bit of op­por­tu­nity,” the ever-thought­ful Peter con­tem­plates his own ca­reer. “We were brought up in an idyl­lic sit­u­a­tion in which we had the chance to ride horses.”

Michael’s con­tri­bu­tion was taped be­fore his death in 2014, and he pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into jump rac­ing imme- di­ately af­ter World War II.

Peter, just a baby when his fa­ther won the 1959 Na­tional with Oxo, writes of Michael win­ning a big race, de­spite hav­ing a bro­ken leg, al­beit with the qual­i­fi­ca­tion: “but only the out­side bone, not a sup­port­ing bone.”

He adds: “Dad was just one of many jock­eys from that time who were like that. As (jump jockey) David Mould says, they were war chil­dren. There was a ma­cho-ness that he was brought up with. You didn’t wear a hel­met. Health and safety would never have crossed his mind.”

Two gen­er­a­tions on, Tom, who would speak fre­quently to his beloved grand­fa­ther about his rid­ing ad­ven­tures, says of him: “By Christ he was tough… Prob­a­bly bor­der­line stupid – that fear­less.”

It is a com­ment borne out of noth­ing but ad­mi­ra­tion, but his fa­ther Peter re­flects: “Yes, I saw him (Michael) as im­mensely tough. But I saw him as some­one who could over­come his fear. That’s a dif­fer­ent thing to stu­pid­ity. I’ve seen jock­eys who are stupid and don’t care if they get hurt. They tend to get smashed up.”

Peter main­tains that he and his son were driven by dif­fer­ent forces than his fa­ther. Im­me­di­ately post-war sur­vival was para­mount. “Dad was maybe a lit­tle bit more grounded than me and Thomas. I think we bit more dream­ers, search­ing for recog­ni­tion and glory whereas Dad had to go out and make a liv­ing.”

For as long as many of us can re­call, there has been a prof­itable as­so­ci­a­tion of Scu­d­amore and Pipe – first Peter and Martin, and in more re­cent years, Tom and David. With five win­ners in the last fort­night, and 31 al­ready this sea­son, Tom is in fine form.

Yet, ask Peter about his aware­ness that one of his sons is un­der­tak­ing one of the most per­ilous jobs in sport, and he con­cedes: “Some­times I wish my kids did some­thing else. No, I don’t switch off at all from what Tom’s rid­ing and when.”

It leads you, in­evitably, to ask him whom he ad­mires among the more re­cent gen­er­a­tion of jock­eys and he read­ily reels them off: Ruby Walsh, AP McCoy, Brian Hughes, Richard John­son. Yet, typ­i­cally with Peter, there is a caveat:

“I haven’t seen any­one ever win on a horse that wasn’t good enough,” he in­sists. “It’s about the horse. With­out Oxo and ‘Arthur’ I wouldn’t have writ­ten the book. Peo­ple say we should make the jock­eys big­ger names. It’s not about them – it’s about the horse. They win races.”

With that in mind, his thoughts are at­tuned to prepa­ra­tion of the charges he and Rus­sell over­see at Ar­lary House Sta­bles. The pair, who amal­ga­mated, both per­son­ally and in busi­ness ten years ago, cur­rently train around 75 horses. The yard has not looked back since the Na­tional vic­tory of ‘Arthur. “His win was a huge in­flu­ence on us,” says Peter. “There’s no doubt own­ers have sup­ported us be­cause we’ve won the Grand Na­tional.”

The nine-year-old has not raced since Ain­tree be­cause of in­jury, but is now poised for his come­back. “There are dif­fer­ent pos­si­ble tar­gets for Arthur – but one be­ing men­tioned is the long dis­tance 3½ mile chase at Chel­tenham in De­cem­ber,” says Peter. “He seems per­fect and has got as much chance as get­ting to the Grand Na­tional next year as any­thing else.”

Peter’s ra­tio­nale for writ­ing this un­usual but splen­did in­sight into jump rac­ing, a com­bined process with son Tom, aided by the Guardian’s Chris Cook, is a trib­ute to his fa­ther. “But I also wanted peo­ple to ap­pre­ci­ate where jump rac­ing came from,” he ex­plains. “Dad lined up against peo­ple like Dick Fran­cis, Arthur Thomp­son, Bryan Mar­shall, many of whom had had the best days of their lives ripped away from them by war. They laid the foun­da­tions for the sport where it is now.”

Yet, through­out, Peter Scu­d­amore doesn’t take him­self, or rid­ing, too se­ri­ously. “At the end of the day, you’re a pro­fes­sional sports­man, you earn a few quid out of it, and you get out in one piece,” he says, be­fore adding: “I al­ways tell peo­ple that I went to school with a chap who be­came a sur­geon at Birm­ing­ham’s Queen El­iz­a­beth Hospi­tal. He did proper things. I played all my life…”

“The Scu­d­amores have been a pow­er­ful pres­ence for seven decades within Na­tional Hunt rac­ing”

He­roes: Oxo and Michael Scu­d­amore win the Na­tional

Ain­tree tri­umph: One for Arthur wins the Grand Na­tional. In­set: Peter and Tom Scu­d­amore

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