Trainer Lucinda Russell and partner Peter Scudamore stick with winning formula as Corach Rambler chases back-to-back Grand National wins

  • Corach Rambler’s third place in Cheltenham Gold Cup underlined his ability 
  • Russell and Scudamore were not sure if he shoould another run in the National
  • Work routines have been a carbon copy of what worked so well 12 months ago 

Reset and repeat. That has been the mantra for trainer Lucinda Russell and partner Peter Scudamore since they decided to return to Aintree with last year’s Randox Grand National winner Corach Rambler.

Work routines have been a carbon copy of what worked so well 12 months ago when the Derek Fox-ridden 8-1 favourite won with more in hand than the two-and-a-quarter-length margin suggests.

Why change a winning formula, the duo argue.

Russell said: ‘Literally we have got the work diary from last year and have been cribbing from it so he has done exactly the same. The only thing that has been different is that the gallops have been a bit deeper because of all the rain.’

The only other change for a gelding who thrives when the warmer spring weather arrives was that after being saved during the darkest winter months he reappeared in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, rather than trying to win the meeting’s Ultima Chase for the third year running.

Jockey Derek Fox cools off Corach Rambler after winning the Grand National last year

Jockey Derek Fox cools off Corach Rambler after winning the Grand National last year

Corach Rambler’s third place to Galopin Des Champs there only served to underline that this is a steeplechaser in his prime.

The BHA handicapper, who has to frame the weights for this afternoon’s £1million marathon way before the Cheltenham Festival, certainly thinks so. If he could do them again, he would give Corach Rambler an extra 3lb to carry.

Scudamore said: ‘People ask was the Gold Cup too hard a race for him ahead of the Grand National? The honest answer is I don’t know but you get gut feelings about things and I always feel it is harder for horses to carry a lot of weight in a handicap than it is to run at level weights in a conditions race.

‘He hadn’t run since November. If he had hard races in between I would have been worried but he needed a tough race to bring the best of his fitness out.

‘I felt he was working well before he went to Cheltenham and he seems on the same level and that is going to make him very competitive.’

In the immediate aftermath of last year’s race both Russell and Scudamore were not sure whether he would come back this season. One of the factors that persuaded them was the decision by Aintree to reduce the number of starters from 40 to 34, one of a clutch of welfare-driven changes.

Russell said: ‘I didn’t want to ever run him again after last year and I found it very hard watching him run on his season debut (in October) at Kelso. I will find it very hard watching him run at Aintree this year. But he is a racehorse and loves what he does and this has to be the race for him. It’s his race.’

Russell believes last year’s success garnered a different reaction to her first National win with One For Arthur in 2017.

Her public profile has spiralled since, aided by an appearance on Desert Island Discs, and she has become an unofficial spokesperson for the race she treasures.

‘It wasn’t patronising but when we won with One For Arthur some of the reaction was like, “Well done, you’re a girl trainer and you’ve managed to train a horse to win the Grand National. That’s very good’’,’ said Russell. ‘After Corach there seemed a bit more respect. It proved it wasn’t a fluke but we want to do it again and again.

‘I didn’t appreciate at the time how big an influence Desert Island Discs would have. I am amazed how many people have come up to me to talk about it.

‘But the Grand National does that — it reaches outside racing and our little bubble of importance.

‘I have always been told to tell the truth and talk about things that you know about. I do love the Grand National and the people who run it. I think they do a good job trying to preserve the status of the race and look after the horses.

‘Whether it is talking about the National, horses or racing I am happy to do it. It is very important to me.’

Work routines have been a carbon copy of what worked so well 12 months ago

Work routines have been a carbon copy of what worked so well 12 months ago

For all her respect for the opposition, it is the image of Corach Rambler’s win last year which gives her and Scudamore the confidence he can do it again.

Scudamore said: ‘He has run four times at Cheltenham — won three times and finished third in a Gold Cup. He has been to Aintree twice and won twice.

‘He is maybe classier than people thought going into last year’s race. He is not slow. Last year Derek couldn’t hold him any more from the third-last fence.

‘Runner-up Vanillier was staying on at the end but Corach had gone whoosh and put 20 lengths between him and the rest. Was he pulling up in front or was he tired? He is a very intelligent horse and doesn’t do any more than necessary. I know what I think.’

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