Casey secure in caring for a Rough diamond

Greg Wood reports on a stable in Surrey's stockbroker belt aiming its top steeplechaser at Saturday's big race at Ascot
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The Independent Online
The similarity between Terry Casey, who will saddle Rough Quest in Saturday's Betterware Cup at Ascot, and David Nicholson, the champion trainer, is not immediately apparent. Nicholson's string, stabled within a few miles of Cheltenham itself, touches three figures, while Casey oversees fewer than 20 horses near Dorking in Surrey. Both men, however, awake each morning with the comforting knowledge that, whatever else may happen, a salary cheque will be waiting for them at the end of each month.

"I'm a public trainer but I'm also retained by the Wates family [owners of good performers including Repeat The Dose as well as Rough Quest] to train their horses on their premises at Beare Green," Casey said yesterday.

"David Nicholson is an employed trainer in the same way as I am, though obviously on a much bigger scale, and I've got a wonderful set-up without the financial pressure of some other trainers. There's never been any pressure since I've been here, because they're proper racing people and they know the game inside out."

Knowing that finding new owners is not the most important task in his life allows Casey to devote himself to his string, and in Rough Quest he has a horse to repay all his efforts.

Successful at the Festival meetings at both Cheltenham and Punchestown last term, Rough Quest finished runner-up to Couldnt Be Better in the Hennessy Gold Cup - his first completed run of the new campaign - and is the ante-post favourite for Saturday's pounds 30,000 race at Ascot.

At nine years of age, Rough Quest is still improving and Casey is already planning a return to Cheltenham next March. Nor is a repeat victory in the Ritz Club Chase the height of his ambition. "He's a progressive horse who really seemed to find his form in the spring last year, and we'd hope to run him in the Gold Cup," the trainer says.

"He ran very well at Newbury for a horse who hadn't really got a run under his belt, because he fell at a crucial stage in his previous race at Cheltenham, just as they were quickening up."

Nor was the Hennessy run to suit Rough Quest, who is best when held up for a late run and has formed a very profitable partnership with Mick Fitzgerald. The Irishman, however, was suspended for the Newbury race, and Jamie Osborne, his replacement, was "a bit unlucky", according to Casey. "They went no pace and he was jumping so well that he jumped his way into the race." Rough Quest hit the front with almost a circuit of the track to go and was passed going to the last fence.

Fitzgerald will be back in the plate on Saturday and, hopefully, throughout this season, since Nicky Henderson's stable, his principal retainer, does not house an outstanding three-mile chaser at present.

With Young Hustler sure to set a good pace, and with a 9lb pull on Couldnt Be Better for the 14 lengths he was beaten at Newbury, Rough Quest must have every chance of reversing the form. To be worthy of a place in the Gold Cup he surely must do so.

Few contenders for chasing's greatest prize hail from Dorking, but Casey has no regrets about his move from the more traditional jumping country of Lambourn in June 1994. Indeed, his latest stable is the fifth of a training career which has also seen a spell as private trainer to John Upson, while his apprenticeship, both as rider and handler, included employment with Aubrey Brabazon and Paddy Mullins.

Now, though, Casey seems to have found a secure base in the stockbroker belt from which to plot his campaigns. The trainer himself is not a gambling man, but if the locals wake up to the sound investment in their midst, the 3-1 price for Rough Quest on Saturday will surely go down rather than up.