Ben Case: Days like this at the Cheltenham Festival make it worthwhile *H&H VIP*

Opinion

The Cheltenham Festival is a spectacle for everybody to witness. We need to get behind jump racing because it’s a fantastic sport to be involved in.

I haven’t seen emotions as high as those on the Thursday after Frodon and Paisley Park’s victories — it was a pleasure to experience.

There are always stories to come out of the Festival and that’s the wonderful thing about the sport. You’ve had the Bradstocks winning a Gold Cup with Coneygree and it shows there’s still a chance for the little man to win a big race.

We are a comparatively small yard and it’s difficult to compete with the big boys, so it was great for us to have our day in the sun with Croco Bay winning the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase. We survive, we keep our heads above water and it’s a way of life.

Days like that make it all worthwhile. If anything comes out of it then great — as every trainer says, there’s always room for a new horse. All you can do is send them to the races fit, healthy and show you can do the job just as well as everyone else.

A deserved win

Horses always bring you back down to earth but Friday, 15 March, was just unbelievable. It was deserved for Croco Bay, his owner Lady Jane Grosvenor, jockey Kielan Woods and the team at home. Croco Bay has been an incredible horse who has run at the Festival four times and taken us to Aintree, Punchestown and Galway.

It probably wasn’t the preparation people were expecting as he hadn’t run since the summer, but we’d had to manage him after more than a year off. There had been nothing else wrong with him, I just hadn’t been that happy with the ground in the autumn and he’d been going well at home.

I was hopeful, although there had been a worry that he wasn’t even going to get into the final line-up at one stage. I have to say I didn’t really get excited until he got halfway up the final hill. Three out, I thought, “We’ve run well after a long lay-off,” and when he got to the last I thought, “We’ve been in this position a couple of times before and not got there.”

Thankfully, he did; I’ve no idea why. The one time I really fancied him he fell at the water.

Croco Bay’s a happy horse and you wouldn’t know he was 12. When you saddle him up he rests his hindlegs and you wonder if the horse is up for running, but he’s been like that ever since I’ve had him. He’s much more bouncy in his exercise but on raceday he just switches off and goes about his job like a pro.

He doesn’t owe us anything and we won’t make a decision on his future for a few weeks.

Ref Horse & Hound; 21 March 2019