Cheltenham Festival: Peter Scudamore confident of Senor's Gold Cup credentials
The classy eight-year-old was a Grade One winner at Aintree as a novice chaser last season, yet three modest runs this term saw his odds drift for the Festival highlight.
However, Ahoy Senor showed significant improvement with a gutsy display in winning the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January and was catapulted right back into the reckoning for chasing's blue riband. "We are trying to keep our feet on the ground with him after he won at Cheltenham," said Scudamore, trainer Lucinda Russell's partner and assistant. "I keep using this cricket terminology - he'd fit straight into Ben Stokes' XI wouldn't he? He won't have made 10 at lunch time, he'll make 120 after lunch or be back in the pavilion. He wears his heart on his sleeve. "If he gets it right and gets his jumping right, he'll be very competitive." The length-and-a-half victory over Sounds Russian, with Grand National winner Noble Yeats staying on in third, was a satisfying one for the Arlary House yard, which is situated between Perth and Edinburgh. Ahoy Senor's previous efforts this season included three defeats, when sent off favourite in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October and when returning to Aintree for the Many Clouds. After his fifth of nine to Bravemansgame in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, the eight-time champion jump jockey could have been forgiven for second-guessing himself over the horse's ability. Yet Scudamore insists he is still learning on the job and has every faith he can run a big race in the Gold Cup, for which he is as short as 12-1. With L'Homme Presse injured, last year's winner A Plus Tard suffering an interrupted preparation and both Bravemansgame and Galopin Des Champs unproven over three and a quarter miles, it has the makings of an open-looking renewal. Ahoy Senor, whose nickname is Hank, should not be overlooked according to Scudamore, who added: "I really do think the British chasers are good at the moment. "Unfortunately for L'Homme Presse's people he won't run. I think he's as good as any of them and I think Bravemansgame, L'Homme Presse and Ahoy are all pretty good. "Perhaps Bravemansgame is the best of the lot, but on his day, three-mile-two around Cheltenham might play to Hank's strengths. "It is never easy to go into this company straight out of a novice season. "At the beginning the of the season, a lot of people suggested we should have slipped into the Stayers' Hurdle with him. "But I feel with these horses, if you don't jump fences early, they never get to jump fences. I think he is still learning his trade a little bit. "I don't think we are without a chance, but we are trying to keep our feet on the ground a little bit." Ahoy Senor is at least proven at Cheltenham, having chased home L'Homme Presse in last year's Brown Advisory Novices' Chase in very soft ground and when scoring in the Cotswold. Scudamore hopes he will keep returning to the Prestbury Park track, even if he does not strike Gold this time round. "I like to think he's got a couple of years ahead of him," he added. "We were laughing, saying we hope that Ahoy and I and Lucinda and the owners stay around long enough to have six or seven goes at it. We are very proud of him and hopeful."
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