As his star hurdler Melodic Rendezvous stretched up the steep bank away from the lake, Jeremy Scott’s speedometer touched 35 mph. If that’s correct the bookies might as well pay our on their Cheltenham bets now.
Actually we think the speedo is a bit faulty but whatever the pace this is exactly the sort of moment for which the laid back West Country farmer sold his 150 head of dairy cattle five years ago to concentrate on the thrills and disasters of the racing game. The air was clear and sharp 1,000 foot up on a frozen Exmoor, the winter sun glinting on the huge expanse of the man-made Lake Wimbleball below. The two horses were rocketing up the all- weather gallop beside the car with the good one carrying the dizzy hopes of Festival glory. “With the cows,” muttered 51 year old Jeremy in that understated way of his, “There were not many moments to make you ‘whoop.’”
He hated the cows but they had been an economic necessity on the 370 acre farm he took over from his father in the south east of the national park some ten miles up the Exe Valley from Tiverton. What he enjoyed were the point to pointers his wife Camilla and he trained and on whom he even had one or two rides in the early days “just to understand what jockeys were talking about.” They trained around the farm which still harbours 350 sheep and they got quite good at it. In May 2001 he won a hunter chase at Stratford with a horse called County Derry trained under his rather than Camilla’s name. One or two followed over the next six years, then in 2007 he took out a professional trainer’s licence. His first winner was a novice hurdle in May with a pointer called Gone To Lunch who promptly also won his next two. A year later he called Camilla with a simple message: “I have sold the cows.”