HORSE RACING: Case hopeful of a winning winter

Trainer Ben Case is pictured with (from left) First Drift, stable girl Kodie Aubrey, George Case, Croco Bay, Pulp Fiction, jockey Kielan Woods and Millie Lucock at his  Wardington Gate Farm stables on Sunday (Picture courtesy of Tudor Photography)
Trainer Ben Case is pictured with (from left) First Drift, stable girl Kodie Aubrey, George Case, Croco Bay, Pulp Fiction, jockey Kielan Woods and Millie Lucock at his Wardington Gate Farm stables on Sunday (Picture courtesy of Tudor Photography)
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Untapped potential is all around us, lurking in the corner of every horse box. Yet Edgcote trainer Ben Case is a mellow customer these days and pretends not to see it...

He does not act instantly when asked to produce a couple of promising young individuals for photographer Harry Rhodes... animals which might inspire National Hunt followers as the new season flickers into life, swelling our coffers into the bargain.

“We might need to go up the road,” he remarks wryly, gazing thoughtfully in the direction of his neighbour Alex Hales, based barely a quarter of a mile away.

Nevertheless, Pulp Fiction, First Drift and Croco Bay are duly tacked up and trotted out into the late September sunshine at the 36-box stables and the man with the camera happily starts clicking.

A natural resistance to getting carried away appears sensible, coming as it does from a trainer whose winner count didn’t match the expectation levels last season, but who is confident his team are in pretty good nick this time round.

It is almost as though the inmates knew a dark shroud was hanging over the place following the sad passing last winter of David Allen, the man whose finance and vision, delivered in a quietly under-stated fashion, helped breathe fresh and much needed life into the historic Courage estate.

“We’ve had six winners so far but only managed seven in the whole of last season when we had 24 seconds,” says Case who must have known fortunes were subtly on the shift when Croco Bay and Ginger Fizz landed a Worcester double in August, both in photo finishes.

Towcester opens its doors to the racing fraternity once more next Wednesday when the action is due to get underway at 2.10pm and Case has high hopes of adding to his winners haul again there with Pretty Rose, although it’s quite conceivable Phare Isle or Kalangadoo might achieve it in the mean time.

Pretty Rose is a feisty mare who though modest in ability, is expected to be suited to the conditions of the 2m 3f mares’ hurdle for 0-100 rated horses.

It is four years since Case tipped up a Towcester winner at his Open Day when Thoresby landed the first race on the card at the popular Northamptonshire track, and history might yet repeat.

Pretty Rose runs for the value for money Case Racing Partnership which also includes the likes of Vesuvhill, Wish In A Well and Lilly Of The Moor, and the trainer said: “Charlie (Poste) likes to call her Pretty Slow but she is capable in her grade and this is the right race for her.”

The 11-year-old Phare Isle is a personal favourite of the trainer and heads to Huntingdon on Sunday. “He has had a few runs for experience... actually 62! Seriously, he is now back close to his last winning mark but rather like me he takes a bit more getting fit as he gets older.”

Kalangadoo could be set to continue the yard’s recent run of success in National Hunt flat races at Southwell next Monday, a trend which First Drift and Oski began in the spring.

Discussing First Drift, Case said: “There aren’t many horses you can say are unbeaten after three starts. He won a point in Ireland before coming over to us and winning at Southwell and Worcester.

“I’m not sure about the form of the Worcester race but you can only beat what is there. He will go hurdling but I still think he will be a better chaser.

“Oski is a July foal so technically he won at Southwell while he was still only three years old. He has had a bit of a splint and will need more time after suffering a bit of a splint.”

Stable star Croco Bay has taken the Case team to high levels, running at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown in the last 18 months and you can forget Saturday’s low key effort at Market Rasen over a trip beyond his best.

“Put that down to trainer error,” said Case. “The horse had won at Worcester and there was nothing else around, so we thought we’d give it a go. Now we can go back to a 2m chase at Cheltenham next month. I expect his season will again be geared to the Grand Annual at the Festival.”

Other Case runners to keep tabs on this winter include six-time winner Crookstown, admirable mare Midnight Jazz and Cochinillo while there could be more to come from Peterpanopirateman and Themanfrom Minella, who won at Exeter in March.

CAROLINE Bailey’s Holdenby North Lodge team was on the scoresheet last Thursday when Dealing River scored an eighth career success from 36 starts, and High Ron could represent the same yard at Uttoxeter on Sunday.

WHITECREST, owned by Overstone man Graham Eales, had the 99th run of her career at Bath on Monday.