Racing: Scudamore rides in pursuit of the squire: Sue Montgomery on the enduring ability of a former champion

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The Independent Online
PETER SCUDAMORE, the eight-times champion jump jockey who retired in April, returns to the saddle tomorrow to take up a daunting challenge. At dawn on Newmarket Heath he will set off on a gruelling endurance ride of 200 miles.

His only opponent will be the clock as he aims to better a performance over the distance put up 162 years ago when a Yorkshire squire, George Osbaldeston, galloped home in eight hours 42 minutes.

Osbaldeston, 44, took up the challenge to win a bet with a fellow sporting gallant who had wagered that he could not complete within 10 hours. He did it, in filthy weather, with time to spare, using 28 horses. Among his team were several racehorses, including one very smart one, Tranby, who was used four times.

Scudamore, 35, is riding for a more altruistic purpose; to raise money for a charity, the Newmarket-based Animal Health Trust. And in deference to the frailty of the modern horse and to spare public feeling (several of Osbaldeston's mounts broke down), he will spread the work between 50 different mounts, mostly hunters and eventers.

Despite not having race-ridden for six months, Scudamore is optimistic that he can beat the squire's record. He said: 'I ride out for Nigel (Twiston-Davies) most mornings and I run. Eight hours plus in the saddle sounds a long time, but it should be no worse than a couple of days hard hunting. If I have any problem I don't think it will be physical. But I may find concentration difficult, being on my own. It will not be like a race, with others all around.'

Scudamore will start at 7am and, like his predecessor, ride 50 times round a four-mile lap, changing horses - none of which he has ridden before - near the winning post on the July racecourse at the end of each lap. To succeed in his venture he will need to keep up a good gallop the whole way.

Osbaldeston's fastest lap, one of Tranby's, was eight minutes. His average lap time was just under nine minutes, requiring a speed of nearly 27mph. His time in the saddle was seven hours and 47 minutes; he had one fall and several refreshment breaks, including one in which 'he came up into the stand and lunched upon a cold partridge and brandy and water'.

Scudamore said: 'I don't know about the partridge, but I might welcome the brandy.' On a more practical note the ex-jockey will take electrolytes to guard against dehydration.

Osbaldeston backed himself against time to the tune of pounds 1,000 to pounds 100. Bookmakers William Hill, one of the sponsors of tomorrow's event, have given Scudamore a similar bet, winnings going to the Trust. The Osbaldeston Challenge precedes another historic event, the 324th running of the Newmarket Town Plate, and donations and spectators tomorrow will be very welcome.

The peppery squire, on being offered smelling salts at the end of his marathon, exclaimed: 'Damn your salts and your senna. I am so hungry I could eat an old woman.' Scudamore's sentiments have yet to be recorded.

(Photograph omitted)

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