Grand National 2021 Fact Files
Tom Scudamore described Randox Grand National favourite Cloth Cap as “a thrill to ride” ahead of his bid to win the world’s greatest steeplechase for the first time.
Cloth Cap is the 4/1 favourite for the Randox Grand National with MansionBet . The nine year old has enjoyed the perfect Aintree preparation, winning the Grade Three Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November and the Listed bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso earlier this month on his two most recent appearances. Cloth Cap is owned by Trevor Hemmings, who is seeking a record fourth win in the world’s greatest chase following Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015), while his trainer Jonjo O’Neill saddled Don’t Push It to a famous victory under Sir A P McCoy in 2010. Cloth Cap’s jockey is Tom Scudamore, who has yet to win the race. His best performance in 18 rides was when sixth on Vieux Lion Rouge in 2017.
Tom Scudamore said: “This season has been fantastic and Cloth Cap has been a tremendous thrill to ride. He keeps going from strength to strength and is a worthy favourite for the race. I am really excited by it all. In any other race he would be much shorter than 4/1. It’s a very privileged position to be in to be riding the favourite and I would much rather be riding the favourite than under the radar on an outsider. He is favourite for a reason and a very good reason.
“The Grand National was the natural race for him to go for after his win in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He ran very well in the Scottish National as a novice and he is related to some good stayers, so Aintree always looked the natural progression for him. Obviously, Mr Hemmings is no stranger to National glory and the horse was probably bought with Aintree in mind so it is the logical race for him to go for.”
Both Cloth Cap’s victories this season have seen him make all and Scudamore continued: “Jonjo told me he jumps and stays and we got a good start at Newbury. We just took each fence as it came and it was a similar scenario at Kelso. He doesn’t have to make the running. He was up in the van when he ran so well in the Scottish National but I wouldn’t put his performances this year down to the fact he has been able to make the running. He has obviously matured plenty this season and has gone from strength to strength.”
On how to ride Aintree the 38-year-old continued: “It all depends on the individual horse and how the race pans out as to where you want to be. More often than not, the winners seems to be handy but at the same time One For Arthur came from a long way back (in 2017).
“Obviously, Cloth Cap has generally been ridden pretty prominently and I imagine that is what will happen again – why change anything when it isn’t broken? He is a pretty versatile and a very intelligent horse. Things will be different with the big field but he has coped with big fields before and it’s just a case of hoping he goes well and you get that little bit of luck.
“You are very aware which fence is which because of the challenges they present. It is about the job in hand and riding accordingly. I was 18 when I first rode in the race and probably too excited but since then I have tried to concentrate on the challenges each fence presents you.
“It is different. You sometimes go there with horses you think are tailor made for it and for some reason it doesn’t work out. For other horses, it can really make them. Vieux Lion Rouge wasn’t actually a great jumper until he went over the National fences – it really made a man of him. Cloth Cap has run in big handicaps and in my mind he has the maturity and braveness to go and do it. Until he actually has you can never be sure but he certainly shows all the right attributes.
“I learnt plenty riding Blowing Wind and Vieux Lion Rouge, both real National experts. Vieux Lion Rouge has jumped more National fences than just about any other horse in history so I learnt plenty riding him. Soll was also a great ride, as was The Package. I have been in contention crossing the Melling Road the final time on a few occasions but unfortunately every time it was a little bit too far for the horse. You just have to go and ride it like a four and a quarter mile chase – you can’t get too carried away because it’s the Grand National but have just got to make the right decisions at the right time.
“The course executive has done a really brilliant job on the course in recent years. Everything involved with horse welfare, not just the fences but other things such as the wash down areas, has been really thought through and done correctly. The race is a slightly different challenge to how it was in the past but is still very unique and you have to ride it accordingly. It is still a unique challenge but it is fairer than it was say nine years ago.”
On how much he is looking forward to April 10th at Aintree, Scudamore said: “I have been thinking about it an awful lot. It’s certainly in the forefront of my mind and you are aware it’s round the corner but fortunately I am very busy with plenty to keep me occupied like four rides at Market Rasen today.”
The Scudamore family has a fantastic connection to Aintree as the jockey explained: “My grandfather won the race in 1959 (as a jockey on Oxo) and it while I obviously have no recollection of that it is something the whole family is obviously very proud of. When Oxo when won there was a big dinner in Hereford to celebrate a couple of weeks’ later and we have still got the menus and cards from that. It is something that will always be associated with grandad and for all that dad and I have achieved, there was always the fact that Michael Scudamore had won the Grand National so he always put us in the shade a bit.
“It is something that until you have gone and done it you can’t really appreciate what it involves. Growing up, dad was obviously associated with Nigel Twiston-Davies and when Earth Summit won in 1998 it was absolute bedlam. That was my first realisation at age 13 or 14 about how huge it was and it absolutely blew my mind. It was a whole jamboree and after seeing all the disappointments dad had been through to see Earth Summit win it was amazing. Dad and grandad had bought Earth Summit and played a massive part in his training so it was a fantastic memory. My first memory of Aintree was going there when dad rode Strands Of Gold (1989). That was very exciting as he was going very well until he fell at Becher’s second time!
“Growing up, we would talk at Sunday lunches for hours about the Grand National. Grandad rode in I think 16 consecutive Grand Nationals which I still think is a record and dad rode in it 13 or 14 times and I think I could talk about every single ride they had and how they got on. It was an enormous part of my childhood. I’ll speak to dad about Cloth Cap and I might pick his brains about one or two things.”
On what other contenders he fears, Scudamore said: “There are plenty of dangers. You have got to be very respectful of Kimberlite Candy who seems to have been campaigned with this race in mind, Ted Walsh’s horse (Any Second Now) was very impressive in Ireland the other days and there will be plenty of horses with a chance but I’ll be focusing in Cloth Cap. If the handicapper could have his say again we would be 14lb higher so that is a lovely position to be in. It is such a high quality race that you have to respect any horse that meets the criteria and gets a run.”
On what winning the Randox Grand National would mean to him, Scudamore commented: “It would mean probably paying the next two tax bills! No, it would be the ultimate pinnacle of my career up to that point. It is the race that you want to be involved in and growing up it is the race that I wanted to win most. It doesn’t add any more pressure on to it having spent your whole career trying to win it but it would just be the pinnacle as far as I am concerned.
“I have spoken to Mr Hemmings on a couple of occasions after Cloth Cap’s wins. He is a tremendous supporter of National Hunt Racing and it would be an honour if I was able to win for him for a fourth time.”
A J O’Neill, assistant trainer to his father, said: “Cloth Cap is in great form. His training regime hasn’t really changed since the Ladbrokes Trophy – we have kept him doing the same thing. But he is in great form at home and the whole team is very excited about Aintree.
“We were lucky enough to have a winner at The Festival with Sky Pirate in the Grand Annual and we followed up on Saturday in the Midlands National with Time To Get Up so last week was definitely one to remember and there have been a lot of smiles around the yard for sure.
“I would agree with Tom that Cloth Cap is entitled to be favourite off of 10st 5lb. It is a competitive weight and we are really looking forward to seeing him run. He jumped very well in the Ladbrokes Trophy and obviously stays as showed in the Scottish National when he was younger. It will be very exciting to see him over the bigger fences at Aintree.
“The ground as it was when he won at Newbury (Good) would be ideal but obviously it is out of our control and we will just have to see how it is on the day. We certainly wouldn’t want it bottomless – it already takes plenty of getting with such a long trip.
“He jumps very well. We don’t actually have any National style fences at home any more. We always used to have them until 2010 and the first year we didn’t have them Don’t Push It won the National! So we have stuck with leaving them out from then to be honest. It’s not superstition, we still take horses to the schooling fences at Lambourn sometimes and we did with Minella Rocco so it’s a possibility we could take Cloth Cap there.”
On his Grand National memories, O’Neill said: “I have very fond memories of Don’t Push It winning in 2010. I was obviously a lot younger at the time – I would have been 10 or 11 at the time. The National is such a big race and a highlight of the season. To be lucky enough to have the winner was amazing and it was also fantastic when Don’t Push It was third the next year. I was probably a bit young to understand what it meant but I have very fond memories and hopefully we can do it again.
“Dad has obviously had a very successful career in racing from a young age and the National is something everyone aims for so to be able to pull it off was just a great effort for the team and a very proud moment for him.
“It is a confidence booster for the team that we have done it before but each horse is very individual. Alan Berry rode Don’t Push It every day and tailored his training to his specific needs. We have fantastic facilities here so are able to do most things with three All-Weather gallops, three grass gallops, All-Weather schooling facilities and swimming pools.”
On the rivals to Cloth Cap, O’Neill said: “The Grand National is such a big field that anything is a danger. The race is over a long distance and fences are different. I just hope we can get there on the day in good form and hopefully have a bit of luck on our side.”
On what it would mean to the team at Jackdaws Castle, O’Neill said: “It would mean the world to the whole team. It’s been a while since Don’t Push It won and it would be amazing to train Mr Hemmings another National winner. Dad keeps him well informed and fortunately this season has involved a lot of congratulatory phone calls with Cloth Cap’s two wins. The owners are the heart and soul of the industry so it is great they will able to be at Aintree. Without them we wouldn’t be able to operate and it is one of the reasons owners get into racing so they can go and enjoy watching their horses run, which is heightened considerably for a race like the Grand National.”