In among all the cryptocurrencies, NFTs and assorted varieties of snake oil that flourished online during the Covid pandemic, there was a genuine, once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity just waiting to be discovered.
Corach Rambler is the favourite for the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, the race everyone in jumping dreams of winning above all others. He has won twice at the Cheltenham Festival, this year and last, banking nearly £200,000 and priceless memories for his small group of owners. Whether or not they pick up the £500,000 first prize on Saturday it promises to be another experience they will never forget.
Had you stopped by at Lucinda Russell’s website in late 2020 with £3,000 to spend it could have been you. Russell, who is based near Kinross, about 30 miles north of Edinburgh, bought Corach Rambler for £17,000 in November, sold one share back to his breeder and then put another six up for sale online.
“He was a six-year-old, and everyone wants a four- or five-year-old, but Scu [her partner, Peter Scudamore, the former champion National Hunt jockey] said he’d really like to buy him,” Russell says.
“We advertised him on the website and anyone could have had a share. A couple of people came in who had shares [in horses in the yard] already and a couple who had had shares before.
“One man had just lost his wife. He’d moved to Scotland and felt terribly lonely. He’d just gone through lockdown and been totally isolated. He said to me on the phone that he knew she’d love him to have a share in a horse and it’s changed his life. It’s been fantastic.
“Another owner is living in Australia, but is originally from Scotland and he wanted to have a link back to Scotland, something to follow. They’re all taking on the biggest owners, so it’s wonderful.”
The only worthwhile form Corach Rambler had in the book at the time was a win in a point-to-point at Monksgrange in County Wexford in Ireland in September 2020. Russell, though, was – and remains – the last British trainer to win the Grand National, thanks to One For Arthur’s four-and-a-half length success in 2017.
One way or another, it is a status she is unlikely to surrender on Saturday, when horses trained in Ireland will greatly outnumber those from British yards. Corach Rambler will be one of two or three home-trained runners to set off at shorter odds than 33-1.
If Russell could notch a second National victory it would be another huge achievement for a stable that has thrived year-on-year since she saddled her first runners in the early 1990s. It would be a fitting tribute, too, to her father, Peter, who died in January at the age of 95 and helped to launch Russell’s training career from her current yard in 1995.
“Arthur changed my life and this horse has been the same for his owners, the happiness he’s brought and what he’s done for them,” she says. “He’s got such a strong personality, he’s a lovely horse. He’s quirky and a little bit different, Scu rides him every day and he’s not a horse that would thrive in a big string. He enjoys going off and doing his own thing.”
Thanks to a slightly unexpected expansion to include 20 horses for the Flat there are now more than 100 horses at Arlary House Stables where Russell, a psychology graduate, places equal emphasis on her horses’ mental and physical wellbeing. “We talk about mental health in humans so why not in horses and other animals?” she says. “It’s something we’ve always been very aware of and I think the way that we train really helps them.
“We train from two yards. The serious yard, which is quite hard work for them and more regimented, and then we’ve got the farm, where the horses just canter around the fields. It’s very natural, they do different things, we can give them less work or more work, we can do what we want.
“It’s not just Corach, it’s all the horses, it’s about getting the balance. It’s different to humans. You can’t take them to therapy and ask them to talk about it, but what you can do is observe them and understand how they’re feeling by taking in the physical signs.”
The happy, lucky band of owners who paid about £3,000 for a share in the horse of a lifetime can be confident Corach Rambler will be ready in body and mind for the unique challenge at Aintree. “In some ways it’s not ideal to prep [for the National] at Cheltenham,” Russell says, “but the week after he had his first bit of work back and Scu said he couldn’t believe it, he felt like he’d improved.
“He seems in very good form, he’s the right weight, the right shape, he’s where we want him really, so maybe it’s been the right thing to do. We’ll find out on Saturday.”