SUNDAY TIMES SPORT
WELSH GRAND NATIONAL
Skill versus hazard is the central contest of the racing game. It was also at the very heart of Paul Carberry’s triumphant Welsh National win on Monbeg Dude at Chepstow. The skill from the jockey, the hazard from the faulty jumping horse, and that’s not to mention his rugby star owners who include former England Internationals James Simpson-Daniel and Mike Tindall.
For it had been Tindall, with his back to the auctioneer, who had raised a not entirely sober finger at a Cheltenham sales dinner three years ago this month and then heard the gavel bash down with the not too welcome statement “sold to the rugby table, £12,000.” With a degree of desperation the two England and Gloucester heroes dragged in Wasps and Wales fly half Nicky Robinson and trainer Michael Scudamore who was himself capped for Wales at Under 19 Level to complete an owning partnership. Next morning Monbeg Dude may have been a hangover horse, but now he has proved a bargain.
Not that you would have thought it in the early stages of yesterday’s three and three quarter mile slog round this western end of Wales close to the Severn Estuary. Monbeg was reverting to the scrappy jumping which ruined his final race last season and his first this autumn and few would have envied 39 year old Carberry the prospect of the long haul ahead of him. But there has always been genius behind the bravado which saw him reach up and swing high from the rafters as Bobbyjo was led in to the unsaddling enclosure after winning the 1999 Grand National. Never will you see genius seasoned by experience to better effect than what Paul Carberry did yesterday.
While Tony McCoy and favourite Teaforthree dictated the race alongside twice Welsh National second Giles Cross, Monbeg Dude was kept right at the back of the 17 strong pack and allowed to cross the fences in his own fashion however awkward. With a circuit to go there was still only one horse behind him and it was only running down the long bend towards the final straight that Carberry began to get his little partner slightly nearer contention. Even then Monbeg Dude crashed hard into the fourth fence from home and although he looked to have the legs of Teaforthree going to the last, hazards still remained.
“He was on a long stride,” said Paul afterwards, “and this time I thought I had to go for it. He dived a bit but got away with it and after that I was definitely going to win. In fact once he had settled down and got his rhythm I honestly always thought I could win it.” It was said with the ease of a man who way beyond boasting. Time was when Carberry was the maddest of the mad, but yesterday there was wisdom in his every move and all the skill of his heyday as he instantly switched his whip from left to right to repel McCoy’s final thrust by half a length at the line with Triggerman a distant third and only six others completing the journey.
Huge credit also to 28 year old Michael Scudamore for whom this fifth winner of the season was by far the biggest success of his five year career and doubled his prize money for this term. It was never going to be easy being the son of one racing legend, champion jockey Peter who had four Welsh Nationals to his credit, and grandson of another, Michael Scudamore senior who won the 1959 Grand National on Oxo. But he has persevered and yesterday his early obsession with rugby paid the ultimate in dividends.
Simpson-Daniel and Robinson were able to make it to Chepstow but Tindall or ‘The Lord’ as the others dub him, was doing his player coach duties with Gloucester at Kingsholm as Carberry and Monbeg Dude were plugging their way to immortality. “He won’t know what has happened until half time,” said Simpson Daniel who will be forever be associated with the brash 19 year old who dummied Jonah Lomu at Twickenham. “That,” he added irreverently, “is unless ‘The Lord’ thought to substitute himself after twenty minutes.”
As it was Gloucester lost out to London Irish but for Tindall there were other hazards overcome.