Amongst the different training successes from the Cheltenham Festival, one ‘smaller’ trainer stood out. Ben Case himself isn’t exactly small in stature, after all he’s built more like a rugby player than a jockey. His Edgcote yard, nestled in the Northamptonshire countryside, is blessed with the patronage of loyal owners with many being part of the yard since Case first took out his licence some twenty years ago.
The success of Croco Bay in the Gr3 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase is by far the most prolific of Case’s career and caps a memorable month for Case who enjoyed his first success at Newbury with First Draft back on March 2nd. Both horses have handsomely contributed to the earnings of the Wardington Gate Farm team this season, one which is set to be their highest earning season to date.
But what makes Croco Bay’s success stand out? Take a look at the form book, and the last time that Croco Rouge was seen on a racecourse came some 227 days prior when running second in a midsummer chase at Worcester. Before that, it was a further 501 days to his previous start when finishing 5th in the 2017 running of the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual.
"I don't know what to say”, reported Case. “A week ago I wasn't sure we would get in, and I have to thank Paul Webber, who let me swim Croco Bay. I knew he was fit as he went to Newbury the other day and never blew a candle out. He was in great form. He just loves it. He runs with his heart on his sleeve and I'm thrilled...lost for words.
"There has been a lot of work going into Croco Bay. He had a year off the previous year, and we brought him back from a long lay-off to run at Worcester, when he ran very well. The ground was a bit on and off afterwards, and I thought if we are ever going to have the chance of winning a big race, he has to come back here. We gave him the winter off and brought him back after Christmas. He loves it around here. He has been third and fifth, and the time I really did fancy him he fell at the water, which is very unlike him, but he has made up for it today.
"He is 12-years-old, but he is like a six-year-old at home. He has a great attitude, the horse, and if he was worked up, I would be worried. He has been to all the festivals—here, Aintree, Galway, Punchestown—and to win here is fantastic. He is proper handicapper. He is what he is, but he goes out there and runs his heart out every time. For a small yard like ours to have somebody like him, it is great for us.
"This is what we do the job for, to have days like this. We have about 30 in the yard, and it is a very small team. Everybody knows each other really well and have been with me for a long time. I am just really pleased for everybody. It is an emotional occasion. The owner has put a lot into it. We buy and sell foals. She has a few horses in training with me, and we have had a lot of fun. We had a big winner with Deep Trouble at Punchestown a long time ago, and this horse has carried the can for us as well."