Joe Farrell a fine example of Ben Case's sideline in trading top-notchers
Grand National contender joined Rebecca Curtis three years ago
There will be no Randox Health Grand National runner for Ben Case this year but the newly minted Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer has played his own part in one of the race’s major market movers.
As a small sideline with owner Lady Jane Grosvenor, Case raises a handful of National Hunt stores and Joe Farrell is one of the alumni from his yard on the Edgcote Estate near Banbury.
Unfortunately the Presenting gelding, out of the Old Vic mare Luck Of The Deise, was not one of their greatest triumphs as he resulted in a €1,000 loss over a two-and-a-half-year hatching period, having picked him up for €27,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland November auction in 2009.
"We bought him as a foal, he was a very correct foal, but he didn’t make a huge amount at the sales," Case explained. "He was a very good-moving horse, he had a bit of a plain head on him, but nothing that he wouldn’t have grown into. There have been a few lately; Shishkin, who won a bumper for Nicky Henderson, we bought and sold him and unfortunately he didn’t make any money either."
Case has followed Joe Farrell’s progress with interest, particularly when he changed hands again to the care of Rebecca Curtis for just £10,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham sale almost three years ago.
"John Ferguson bought him from us. He won two bumpers for him and AP McCoy rode him another time [when second to the top-class Barters Hill at Warwick]," he said.
"I’d say living in the sea there [in west Wales] has done him the world of good. He jumps well, he stays, and I’d be delighted for them if he wins, because every horse that we buy and sell, we want them to do well because people will come back again, regardless of whether they make money or not."
Such is the game for Case, who provided Lady Jane with a magical Cheltenham moment three weeks ago through Croco Bay in the Grand Annual. He has an Aintree runner of his own with First Drift in the opening Gaskells Handicap Hurdle.
"We usually buy four foals every year, the intention is to sell them on and I have the next lot with me at the moment – a Sholokhov, a Yeats, a Shantou and a Milan all due to go to the sales this year, so we’ll see what happens with them. I buy them with Kevin Ross and they all get consigned back through Richard and Sally Aston at Goldford Stud as store horses, and the system has worked well.
"We keep some and we sell some. Empire Of Dirt [the 2015 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate winner] is one we sold who made a lot of money, and there have been others like [Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up] Time For Rupert and [useful hurdler] For Good Measure. Last year’s crop have done okay as well – Encore Champs of Warren Greatrex’s has won three and that’s great.
"The main point is that the horses we’re buying are going on and winning races and there’s value there to be had with some of them. Some of them make money, some don’t, but that’s maybe because they weren’t the prettiest horse in the sale, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not a racehorse."
And even if Joe Farrell was not an oil painting, Case acknowledges his claims as an athlete. Last season’s Scottish National winner, who showed abundant promise on a recent start at Newbury, was a springer in the betting once he looked as if he would sneak in at the bottom of the handicap.
"Off his weight I think he has a good chance," he said. "I’d guess Walk In The Mill has a chance for Robert Walford jumping round off a slightly lower weight too, and Tiger Roll has the obvious claims but it’s the National, you’re always wiser after the event!"