Tom Scudamore has described Randox Grand National favourite Cloth Cap as “a thrill to ride” ahead of his bid to win the world’s greatest steeplechase for the first time.
Cloth Cap is 4/1 favourite with Betway, official betting partner for the race on April 10, after winning the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and the bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso.
The Jonjo O'Neill-trained chaser is owned by Trevor Hemmings, who is seeking a record fourth win in the world’s greatest chase following Hedgehunter (2005), Ballabriggs (2011) and Many Clouds (2015).
Scudamore, whose best performance in 18 rides was when sixth on Vieux Lion Rouge in 2017, said: “This season has been fantastic and Cloth Cap has been a tremendous thrill to ride.
"He keeps going from strength to strength and is a worthy favourite for the race.
"I am really excited by it all. In any other race he would be much shorter than 4/1.
"It’s a very privileged position to be in to be riding the favourite and I would much rather be riding the favourite than under the radar on an outsider.
"He is favourite for a reason and a very good reason."
Both Cloth Cap’s victories this season have seen him make all and Scudamore continued: “Jonjo told me he jumps and stays and we got a good start at Newbury.
"We just took each fence as it came and it was a similar scenario at Kelso.
"He doesn’t have to make the running. He was up in the van when he ran so well in the Scottish National but I wouldn’t put his performances this year down to the fact he has been able to make the running.
"He has obviously matured plenty this season and has gone from strength to strength."
On what other contenders he fears, Scudamore continued: “There are plenty of dangers. You have got to be very respectful of Kimberlite Candy who seems to have been campaigned with this race in mind, Ted Walsh’s horse (Any Second Now) was very impressive in Ireland the other days and there will be plenty of horses with a chance but I’ll be focusing in Cloth Cap.
"If the handicapper could have his say again we would be 14lb higher so that is a lovely position to be in.
"It is such a high quality race that you have to respect any horse that meets the criteria and gets a run.”
A J O’Neill, assistant trainer to his father Jonjo, said: “Cloth Cap is in great form. His training regime hasn’t really changed since the Ladbrokes Trophy – we have kept him doing the same thing.
"But he is in great form at home and the whole team is very excited about Aintree.
“We were lucky enough to have a winner at The Festival with Sky Pirate in the Grand Annual and we followed up on Saturday in the Midlands National with Time To Get Up so last week was definitely one to remember and there have been a lot of smiles around the yard for sure.
“I would agree with Tom that Cloth Cap is entitled to be favourite off of 10st 5lb.
"It is a competitive weight and we are really looking forward to seeing him run."
O'Neill senior won the National in 2010 with Don't Push It, the first year there were no Aintree-style fences at his Jackdaws Castle yard.
“It’s not superstition, we still take horses to the schooling fences at Lambourn sometimes and we did with Minella Rocco so it’s a possibility we could take Cloth Cap there," he added.
O'Neill hopes Cloth Cap can repeat his achievements of 11 years ago.
"To be lucky enough to have the winner was amazing and it was also fantastic when Don’t Push It was third the next year," he said.
"I was probably a bit young to understand what it meant but I have very fond memories and hopefully we can do it again."
"The owners are the heart and soul of the industry so it is great they will able to be at Aintree.
"Without them we wouldn’t be able to operate and it is one of the reasons owners get into racing so they can go and enjoy watching their horses run, which is heightened considerably for a race like the Grand National.”
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