Tuesday 25 October 2016

Lucinda Russell: Scotland’s First Lady

Lucinda Russell trains at Arlay House Stables in Milnahort, Kinross and is best known for saddling One For Arthur to win the Grand National in 2017. One For Arthur had finished a staying on fifth, beaten 3 lengths, in the Betfred Becher Chase over 3 miles 2 furlongs on the Grand National Course and won the Betfred Classic Handicap Chase over 3 miles 5 furlongs on his previous two starts, so was fancied for the National proper. An excited Russell admitted beforehand, “I’m just looking forward to the day – I feel a bit sick just talking about it.”

She needn’t have worried. Having travelled and jumped well, One For Arthur made good headway after the third last fence, overhauled the favourite, Blaklion, between the last two fences and stayed on strongly to beat Cause Of Causes by 4½ lengths. In so doing, One For Arthur – apparently named after Arthur Guinness, founder of the eponymous brewery – became just the second horse trained in Scotland to win the National and made Russell just the fourth female to train a National winner. She said afterwards, “He jumped fantastically and Derek [Fox, jockey, having his first ride in the National] gave him a great ride. He has done us proud, done Scotland proud and done everyone at the yard proud.”

Russell, 51, started training in 1995 and saddled a winner with her first ever runner, Fiveleigh Builds, at Perth, just 30 minutes’ away up the M90, in September of that year. She later recalled, “After about ten years finding my way in the sport and with fourteen horses in the yard, I met Scu and he moved up here and joined me.” “Scu”, of course, is Peter Scudamore MBE, former eight-time National Hunt Champion Jockey, who is her assistant trainer and partner. All in all, Russell has saddled over 600 winners, including nine at graded level, and she and Scudamore have formed the most successful partnership in the history of National Hunt racing north of the border.

Russell trained her first winner at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012, when Brindisi Breeze – described by his trainer as “a nutter” – stayed on well under Campbell Gillies to win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle by 2 lengths from Boston Bob. Tragically, just over three months later, both horse and jockey were dead. Brindisi Breeze jumped out of his paddock and was killed instantly after colliding with a tanker and Campbell Gillies died after an accident while on holiday in Corfu, the day before his 22nd birthday.

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