Grand National gamble Joe Farrell has everything you need, says confident Curtis
Joe Farrell was on Tuesday the subject of a Grand National gamble, with trainer Rebecca Curtis having nothing but encouraging words for his backers, saying the ten-year-old has all the attributes needed for Saturday's spectacular at Aintree.
Curtis, a Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer, is down on numbers at her west Wales yard, but dreams of being in the spotlight again with last year's Scottish Grand National winner, whose participation in the famous chase moved a step closer when Jessica Harrington ruled out Rolling Stones star Ronnie Wood's Sandymount Duke.
Joe Farrell still needs one more horse to defect but was a big market mover on Tuesday, his odds crashing to as low as 14-1 and no bigger than 22-1 (from 33).
Betfair's Barry Orr reported on Tuesday: "It looks increasingly likely Joe Farrell will get one of the coveted 40 spots in the National and punters have latched on to that fact. We've gone 16-1 from 25s today."
Alan Alger, whose employers Betway went 20-1 (from 33), said: "Even though he needs one to come out we have seen substantial support for Joe Farrell, and he's already shown his liking for these marathon staying chases having won last year's Scottish National."
William Hill offered the best price of 22-1 (from 33) and the firm's odds compiler Jamie McBride added: "It's easy to see why punters have latched on given he proved well suited to this kind of test in winning the Scottish National last season and he's officially 3lb well in for his good effort at Newbury a fortnight ago."
A bullish Curtis was in agreement with those views when outlining the attributes of Joe Farrell, who will be ridden by Adam Wedge.
She said: "I was really pleased with him at Newbury because he's a big, burly horse who takes two runs to be fully fit. Given the weight he was carrying, I thought it was a really good performance and I was very happy with him.
"I'd have liked to have given him a bit more time between, but it was either that or no run, and I think he runs better this way."
The trainer, who part-owns Joe Farrell with Mark Sherwood and Nigel Morris, added: "Watching him in the Scottish National and seeing how well he stayed made us keen to go for the National. We've always thought of him as a National horse."
Reflecting on the support for Joe Farrell, Curtis continued: "I can see why people are backing him. If you go back a couple of weeks it looked like he might not get in, but now he probably will and I suppose he's everything you'd want in a National horse; he stays well, he's won a Scottish National, he has a nice low weight, jumps well, has a high cruising speed, and he's a relatively fresh horse for the spring.
"He's 3lb well in and I think he's on quite a nice rating. Although he's ten, he started his career late, so he's relatively unexposed and he's not your typical old handicapper. I think there are a couple of good years in him."
Curtis, whose Teaforthree was third in the 2013 National, has trained nine winners this term, a drop on the 49 she enjoyed in 2012-13, when her string numbered around 60.
Victory in Britain's best-known race would inevitably help raise her profile again, and Curtis said: "I think we've had a really good season considering we've got only 16 to 18 horses in training.
"I think most of what we've run has won, placed or been in the first four, so I'm really happy with the general form of the horses, but it's just a shame we haven't a few more.
"I probably wouldn't want as many as 60 again, but I'd like 30 to 35 with some good, young horses coming through; quality over quantity."
Declarations for Britain's most valuable race are on Thursday, and they will include Ultragold, who had been second favourite for the Topham Chase but runs in the National instead, connections of the Colin Tizzard-trained 11-year-old confirmed on Tuesday.
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