Racing: The man who jumped with his feet on the ground: A triumphant case of substance over style. Richard Edmondson on a gritty champion

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The Independent Online
AS HE recovered from a broken leg during the 1990-1991 season, Peter Scudamore took to wearing footwear which was incongruous, on him above all men. A pair of gaudy cowboy boots.

Along the trail to becoming the most successful jump jockey the world has ever seen, Scudamore has built a reputation for sobriety, never countenancing the cowboy tactics of certain other champion riders.

Yet it was a scorned business, as an estate agent, that almost claimed Scudamore before he arrived as stable jockey to David Nicholson at Condicote. 'I'm very proud of him,' Nicholson said yesterday. 'He's been a great ambassador for the sport, putting everything into it and getting everything out of it. He's got to be one of the top jockeys we've seen since the war.'

Not least of the weapons in Scudamore's armoury has been a fearlessness acute even by jump jockey standards. It should have told us something earlier in the season when his participation in National Hunt's most dangerous forum - that of novice chases - was severely curtailed.

He says this blind bravery remains in the weighing room, but his competitiveness should still serve him well as assistant to Nigel Twiston-Davies, the trainer with whom he has been a friend and amicable foe since they rode ponies against each other as boys.

It is with another trainer, however, that Scudamore will forever be bracketed. From the day in 1985 that he rode his first winner for Martin Pipe on Hieronymous, theirs has been the omnipotent partnership in British racing. Records were devoured, Scudamore becoming the first jockey to 200 victories in a season, and the fastest to 50 and 100 winners.

Not for these two the traditional master and serf arrangement that is so prevalent between many trainers and jockeys. 'There will be a great void without Peter and I shall certainly miss him on the racing scene and as a great friend,' Pipe said yesterday.

'Over the years he's ridden some marvellous races for me and I will never forget his partnerships with Carvill's Hill (Scudamore's choice as the best horse he ever rode), Sabin Du Loir, Bonanza Boy and Granville Again. He's been very dedicated and would go through every race in the finest detail. It's been a great partnership.'

With Pipe helping him to 1,677 career winners, Scudamore's place among the best is assured. Yet his undemonstrative nature means he will probably never be considered the equal of aesthetes such as John Francome and Richard Dunwoody.

Scudamore's introversion was particularly evident in his earlier years, when Francome and Steve Smith Eccles, racing's cavaliers, presented a stark contrast in the weighing room. This reticence has allowed Scudamore to become a dignified figure, and he now represents his colleagues on the Jockeys' Association. 'I have had the privilege of working for him and he is undoubtedly one of the great leaders of British sport,' Michael Caulfield, the Association's secretary, said yesterday. 'As champion jockey he would always be the first to offer support and advice to jockeys if they felt they had been served an injustice.'

In recent seasons, Scudamore, possibly with an eye to the future and involvement in the media, has forced himself to be more outgoing, at the same time making himself one of the most accessible characters in the sport. However, his conversation is still punctuated by unfinished sentences and thoughtful pauses as he strives to inform without upsetting.

He was unambiguous about one thing, though. That when his zest disappeared, as it has gradually done this season, then so would he. That his enthusiasm should span 15 seasons is surprise enough. Scudamore's pale and taut features are testament to the demands wasting diets have put on him. Mealtimes have been an exercise in providing the minimum fuel. 'If I've ridden a couple of losers I sit down in the weighing room and I'm utterly exhausted. I feel like I've got flu,' he said yesterday. 'Then I go out and ride a winner and all the enthusiasm comes surging back.'

The food for thought now is where Scudamore's achievements place him in the annals. These days winning alone is considered insufficient unless it is served with plenty of panache, and Scudamore's stock may be higher in the record books than in the public mind.

His longevity cannot be disputed, however. 'He has been one of the greats,' Pipe said. 'There will never be another Peter Scudamore.'