It is the most difficult of all races to win, as Peter Scudamore knows only too well, but his partner, Lucinda Russell, called this year’s race with two fences still to jump. “We’re going to win the Grand National,” she said to the owners of One For Arthur as their horse cruised into contention on the final run across the Melling Road and there was not a moment in the remainder of the race the first Scottish-trained winner since 1979 threatened to let them down.
One For Arthur had four and a half lengths to spare over Cause Of Causes as he crossed the line, 58 years after Michael Scudamore, Peter’s father, did the same aboard Oxo. Peter tried and failed 13 times to win a Grand National of his own, but thanks to Russell, One For Arthur and the jockey Derek Fox, he has now finally made it into the Aintree winner’s enclosure.
One For Arthur was popular with the punters, setting off at 14-1, and is the first National winner for six years to start at odds below 25-1.
It took three attempts to get the 40 runners away and the field started to thin from an early stage. Vicente went at the first while Definitly Red, the 10-1 second-favourite and the best-handicapped horse in the race, was knocked sideways at Becher’s and pulled up soon afterwards. There were many big fancies still standing, however, as Rogue Angel led them out for the second circuit.
Noel Fehily was the first rider to strike for home, sending Blaklion, the 8-1 favourite, into a clear lead with nearly three-quarters of a mile still to run. Blaklion was travelling well at the time but it was still a bold move by Fehily to play his hand at such a relatively early stage and Blaklion was a spent force at the last.
Fox, though, was aboard a horse that was still pulling his arms out and he was able to draw alongside on the run to the last fence and swiftly build a lead that even the strong stayer Cause Of Causes could not threaten. Saint Are, the runner-up two years ago, was third this time, while Blaklion stayed on at one pace for fourth place as the second National winner to be trained in Scotland completed a straightforward success.
Scudamore’s son Tom, unplaced aboard Vieux Lion Rouge, greeted his father with a long and tearful hug in the winner’s enclosure while Russell struggled to comprehend the ease with which One For Arthur had taken the sport’s most demanding race.
“Someone asked me the other day if I would swap a championship for a National winner,” Scudamore said. “I’d never do that, the championship meant so much. But this is for us, people who are battling along. There are times when you think: ‘Why do I do this? Why did I be the champion jockey and then come back and expose myself as a trainer?’.
“Lucinda and I fight like cats and dogs to do this together. It’s not me and it’s not her. I don’t like the word small but we are not one of the more fashionable places and, from about Christmas time, I felt confident that things were going well. He looked well in the paddock and we had done everything we possibly could to get this horse here.”
Russell, who officially trains One For Arthur with Scudamore as her assistant, said that the win meant everything for the team at their Kinross stable. “I am so proud of the horse,” she said. “He jumped fantastically and Derek gave him a great ride. He has done us proud, done Scotland proud and done everyone at the yard proud.
“It’s really funny how everything has gone right. The preparation for the horse, everything has just gone so smoothly, including winning the race.
“Peter gets really wound up if things aren’t quite right and we seem to have got it right today. He drives me in many ways, I’m the laid-back part of the partnership, but he’s right, he knows how to do it right and he makes sure that I do it right.”
Russell and Scudamore spent the night before the National in the camper van that often takes them from track to track. “It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” she said. “We do many miles and stay over at the tracks. Last night for example we did a lot of drinking at the racecourse and we didn’t have to drive anywhere and we saved ourselves an hour in the morning. It’s a great way to be and highly recommended.”
One For Arthur is owned by Belinda McClung and Deborah Thomson, two old schoolfriends whose partners spend many hours on the golf course and call their partnership “Two Golf Widows” as a result. “I thought this morning: ‘It’s baking hot so there’s no pressure now, he’s not going to win on that ground,’” McClung said. “I have to say he’s just shown his class.
“We decided to have a horse together and that is when we found Arthur. We didn’t realise we had just bought such an amazing horse, but he has given us such a wonderful journey.
“The husbands are here today. They were not going to miss out.”