Champion Hurdle wins remain special to Peter Scudamore

Sat 10 Mar 2018

Being privileged to win the Champion Hurdle on more than one occasion is confined to an exclusive group of jockeys, of which Peter Scudamore is a signed-up member.

In a career which produced more than 1,600 winners, the eight-times champion jockey was fortunate enough to win the two-mile championship prize twice, with the first arriving 30 years ago on Celtic Shot.

Although suffering an odds-on defeat in his prep run at Sandown, which was his first of the season, the Fred Winter-trained gelding atoned for that reversal when storming up the famous hill to beat outsider Classical Charm by four lengths, restoring his reputation.

Scudamore said: "I remember him winning what would now be the Greatwood off a light weight and he really came up the hill.

"One of the other lads said to me only a good horse comes up the hill like that and that he would win the Champion Hurdle. I thought it is only autumn and he has done that off a light weight.

"He then won at Sandown and Windsor and then he got beat by Celtic Chief, who I was also riding at the time, in his trial at Sandown.

"I didn't think Celtic Shot would be good enough to beat him in the Champion Hurdle and I wanted to get off him and back on Celtic Chief, but the owner was insistent that I stayed on him and he had every right to say that.

"He drifted for all the right reasons as he had been beaten in his trial, but basically he outstayed them all and he just shot up the hill. It was a matter of determination at the last. You don't think about being beaten, you just throw everything at it.

"It was not the greatest quality Champion Hurdle of all time, but as spectacles go it was great.

"There were a lot of cheers undoubtedly for Fred Winter, as it was his last big winner and that was hugely gratifying."

In contrast to the victory of Celtic Shot in 1988, success in the race five years later aboard Granville Again for Martin Pipe was one of redemption for the now 59-year-old.

Having fallen in the race in 1992 when still in with every chance, the talented but fragile gelding gained compensation 12 months later when claiming his one and only victory of that season with a hard-fought length victory over Royal Derbi.

Scudamore said: "He was cantering the year before and I don't know what would have happened, but it was all going very well. It looked like I was going to get jocked off him for turning him over and coming down, but I won the Scottish Champion Hurdle on my next run on him up at Ayr.

"He was not an easy horse to train or ride, as he broke blood vessels. He got beat in his trial race at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle and I had to get off Riverside Boy and that cost me a Welsh National winner. He got beat and I was really annoyed.

"Michael Dickinson rang Martin Pipe and he came down to help him with trying to stop him from breaking his blood vessels.

"I wanted to ride a horse called Valfinet, but Martin kept saying to ride Granville Again. I rode him in work and I could feel he was very well and by the time Cheltenham arrived, there was a real air of confidence about him.

"There was this immense confidence behind me that I could feel when I got on him. He could pull quite hard, but he just hesitated out of the gate and it meant I had to drop him down the field.

"By the top of the hill we were going well and we had still not got the run yet. I was worried going to two out as he had put down the year before, but by the time we got there it was over soon enough.

"We got the perfect run, he did have the ability to pull up a bit in front but he galloped all the way to the line that day."

While each victory gave Scudamore, who is now assistant trainer to his partner and Grand National-winning handler Lucinda Russell, immense satisfaction, it is winning for Winter and Pipe that he takes the greatest pride in.

He said: "It is incredible talking about them now and as a jockey I was lucky I rode them for two great men. They were probably not among the greatest winners of the Champion Hurdle, but that doesn't matter in the history books.

"It was great to ride what was Fred Winter's last real big winner and what was really Martin's first. It was a thank you for all that he had done and I felt it completed our association as I felt close to Martin."

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