Horses To Follow » Croco Bay

Croco Bay

Croco Bay put up a fairly remarkable performance to land the two-mile handicap chase at Ascot on Saturday. Settled in third place and towards the outside through the early stages of the race behind a fast pace that was set by Oscar Hill, he jumped well and he travelled really well, a little too keenly if anything. He travelled really well down the side of the course, and moved up on the outside of Fair Dilemma on the run to the fourth last fence, at which point, he was really the only horse who was still on the bridle. He jumped on at the third last, and suddenly the race was over. He was four lengths clear by the time he started to turn for home, he was 10 lengths clear by the time he straightened up for the second last fence, and he won by 19. It was a serious performance visually.

There is substance to it too. The race was run at a solid pace, and it wasn’t as if Croco Rouge ducked the early exchanges, he was up there in the thick of it throughout. The two horses who finished second and third behind him, Lancetto and Christopher Wren, were held up early on, so it may even have been an advantage to have been held up. Also, the winning time was really fast, it was the fastest time on a good day’s racing by miles, and it was 0.24secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par.

This was the best performance that Ben Case’s horse has put up in his life, but there is every chance that he can build on it now. It was his ninth steeplechase, but he is only seven, and he did shape nicely on his previous run behind Johns Spirit at Cheltenham’s October meeting on his debut this season. Also, Case only got him during the summer, it may be that he has just found the key to him at home.

The handicapper has raised him 15lb, which is a fair hike, but which was also merited. He is now rated 149, and that takes him into all the big handicaps now. A fast-run two miles on soft ground obviously suits him well, but he handles good ground well – his previous trainer Peter Atkinson thought that he was at his best on goodish ground – and he has won over two miles and three furlongs. Case said that he would put him away now until the Spring. The Grand Annual and the Red Rum Chase are the obvious races for him, but he will be of interest wherever he goes next.

22nd November 2014