13 Feb Northern light: The rise of Lucinda Russell
THE year 2017 will forever be remembered by leading trainer Lucinda Russell. One For Arthur’s Grand National success was a huge achievement for the Kinross handler, as well as providing a huge shot in the arm for national hunt racing in the north and Scotland. Lucinda, who is ably supported by her partner and assistant Peter Scudamore, the eight times champion jockey, has trained more than 600 winners and is one of the leading handlers in the north and Scotland. Here, she reveals her thoughts on Grand National success, plans for the Cheltenham Festival and gives us some names for the future…
How is the lovely One For Arthur and at what stage is he at in his recuperation from injury?
He is great thank you, wearing his thick winter coat and enjoying some time off in the field, mostly rolling and eating. He starts on our water treadmill in March and will be back in ridden training in July.
All being well, would the 2019 Grand National be the long-term plan?
Yes definitely. He seemed to love the fences and is best at long distances.
Ten months on from that wonderful day at Aintree, what sort of impact has winning the greatest race in the world had on yourself and the yard?
It is hard to quantify, but the win has given us all great confidence. I feel that the yard is a tighter knit community and the jockeys that we have are riding so well. In particular, I have seen Derek change and in my view he is riding as well as any of the jockeys in the country, with strength and belief.
Banging in the winners…
You’re on 29 winners for the season. Are you happy with the way things have gone so far?
Yes, we had far fewer runners in the summer and took a little time to get going fully, but now the winners are flowing. We were not idle in the summer though and spent the months buying young horses, which has shown in our increase in bumper winners and novice hurdle winners. We have some cracking novices for the rest of this season and for next season.
2017 was a positive year for northern/Scottish jump racing with “Arthur”, Brian Hughes’ success and some very good horses emerging such as Sam Spinner and Waiting Patiently. Do you feel national hunt racing in the north is in good shape?
Yes, it has been excellent to get more publicity for us but the tenacity and knowledge of the trainers up here is deep rooted. The same can be said for the jockeys and I have always thought that young horses up here have a more gentle start to racing and therefore tend to last longer.
Is there anything the racing authorities could do better to support northern/Scottish racing?
Make staging replacement fixtures easier and faster. We have lost over 40% of our fixtures in the past few months. If racecourses are willing to restage either a few days later or the following week it would help us greatly.
Cheltenham Festival prospects…
Cheltenham is a few weeks away. Big River is entered in the RSA and looks like a lovely prospect. Will he head to the Festival? At the time of writing, do you have any other planned runners?
It depends how Big River gets on at Kelso this week [due to run on Thursday in the Ivan Straker Chase], but if we all think that he is ready for it then he will head to Cheltenham. We will see how Jump For Dough, Sky Khan, Dr Hooves and Tantamount are before deciding if they travel down there too.
Forest Des Aigles
Forest Des Aigles has been in great form, winning three races and running well for a long way in the Peter Marsh. What plans do you have for him?
He will either run at Carlisle or Ayr in the coming weeks. He needs soft ground but did not quite stay the Haydock trip.
Cheltenham appears to be the be all and end all for so many people in racing. Do you see it like that?
I share the feeling that Cheltenham is the mecca, but also love winners at Aintree; it has always been a lucky track for us.
Brindisi Breeze and Campbell Gillies
Brindisi Breeze won the Albert Bartlett for you in 2012 before his awful accident. Does he remain the best you have trained and do you often wonder how far he could have gone over hurdles/fences?
Brindisi had an immense talent and never seemed to tire. I do not know that he is “The Best”, but he was an outstanding type and yes, it is sad that we did not take him chasing.
Campbell would be proud of what we have achieved…
How difficult was it to cope and carry on after the twin tragedies of Brindisi and then losing Campbell (Gillies) so soon after in 2012?
Life deals you some odd cards and to share some of the best of our days with both Brindisi and Campbell was wonderful. We will always miss Campbell as he was a big part of this yard but I think that he would have been proud of what we have achieved, and it is fabulous that his sister works here and his family had lots of success with the delightful Lie Forrit. Campbell’s grandfather, John, has a share in a lovely young horse with us, Prince Dundee, and we are hopeful that he will be a good hurdler and chaser for him.
Looking to the future, Precious Cargo and Highland Hunter were both impressive bumper winners for you recently. Would they be among your nicer young horses?
Yes, they won within a few days of each other and reinforced our success with bumper horses this season. We have concentrated on sourcing some top-class four year olds and I think that we have a few more still to come out.
Could you give our readers a horse to look out for in the coming months?
Dr Hooves will be a top-class type for this season and next.
Sourcing stars of the future…
Is Ireland still the main place where you buy young three, four and five-year-old store horses and budding stars of the future?
Yes, although we also buy two year olds from France. However, Scu and I spend a lot of time in Ireland and are always looking for youngsters and those with form in point to points. I admire the way that the three year olds are produced over there, and we also have a routine for unbroken stores. Headed by Derek we break in and pre-train a batch of half a dozen a year and the results of that are showing through with Emissaire, Mighty Thunder and Dr Hooves.
You’ve won the really big one: what other race would you like to win?
The RSA at Cheltenham.
Have you many horses for sale at the moment? Any that would you particularly recommend?
We have two three year olds who we bought last summer in France and who are tough and focused. One is by Enrique the sire of Binocular and from the family of Sweet Duke who Scu rode to win on his final ride. He could be a top hurdler. We also have a five year old with Irish point to point form in Timesawaiting, who ran a super race in a bumper and should be a lot of fun through the spring and summer. We may sell shares in him, see the website for more details.
For more information about Lucinda’s horses for sale and her training operation please visit www.lucindarussell.com