In 1979 I was competing in the Ashford Valley Pony Club’s annual one-day-event when I took a wrong turn during the cross-country phase. My mother, who had given up the day to drive me to the competition, yelled that I was a "woolly-headed idiot" and made me run around the course - as a lesson that I should have walked it properly in the first place.
On Monday Tom Scudamore joined my list of all time top jockeys - not because of his winning ride on Monita Bonita in the Racing UK Anywhere Package Mares Handicap Hurdle, but because of his stunning ride on Run Forest Run in the following race sponsored by Louis Roederer Champagne. Scudamore’s Champagne moment involved setting off on the wide outside for the 3 ¼ mile handicap hurdle before jumping the first of the 4½ foot tall steeplechase fences. It was lucky Run Forest Run is a good jumper.
While The Racing Post described the jockey on the following day’s front page as "Forest Chump", one of the girls in our office suggested that he was "a bit of a goon". I think my mother would have advised him to go and get his hair cut – it’s wooliness was obviously impeding his brain.
Shortly before 3.00pm, Scudamore had dashed out from the Weighing Room to receive the prize for the preceding race, posing for photographs with the race sponsors which will be cherished for many years to come. He then signed autographs for a group of children, which may inspire them to follow racing for a life-time. He conducted himself quietly and confidently as the consummate professional, helping us to promote our sport - before committing a hugely embarrassing error in full view of the TV cameras and a massive racing audience.
For me, this was the moment that Scudamore earned the respect that has hitherto been accorded to his father (Peter – the eight time Champion Jockey) and his grandfather (Michael, winner of the 1959 Grand National on Oxo). "I feel very sorry for the horse’s connections and I have apologised to them" he said. "I also apologise to everyone who backed him. I was given a twelve day ban and for once I don’t feel hard done by".
Not only can the man ride, but he is also human – he makes mistakes and apologises for them. He deserves our applause, even from those whose pockets are lighter. The horse's connections are giving Scudamore the opportunity to make amends on Friday – when he will ride Run Forest Run at Uttoxeter. I hope they win.
This weekend’s selection is Mukhadram in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Perhaps someone could make sure that Dane O’Neill walks the course beforehand?