Newmarket trainer James Owen and rider Rupert Stearn have a one horsepower reason for hoping Aintree’s Grand National meeting goes ahead next April.
The Owen-trained Just Cause won four point-to-points last season while cementing a winning team with Stearn, but missed out on point-to-point and hunters’ chase targets when the sport was shut down in March following the arrival of Covid-19.
Speaking at Tattersalls’ August Sale in Newmarket this week, where he was selling a group of racehorses on behalf of Rabbah Bloodstock, Owen (pictured above) said: “Just Cause is with his owner [Simon Stearn], but I’m expecting him back some time in the next few weeks. I haven’t seen him in the flesh for a while, but I saw a picture of him recently and he looks great and has summered well.
“He’s a year older [ten-year-old, rising 11] so we’ll have to see if he’s as good, but we’ll probably start off at the second Cottenham meeting and as he’s proven around Horseheath we can go there. He’ll begin in open races, but it would be nice to run in a hunters’ chase.
“Rupert would love a crack at Liverpool, but the horse would need to be in the form he was earlier this year before we would commit to that. It’s Rupert’s goal, and it might be on this horse.”
Just Cause winning with rider Rupert Stearn at Cottenham in February
Just Cause lost a shoe, but completed the course when unplaced in the 2019 Foxhunters’ Chase under Jack Andrews. He was subsequently sold to the Stearn family, and his four victories in the most recent, shortened season put him level on wins with Fumet D’Oudairies and Navanman in the Connolly’s RED MILLS champion horse title. However, Navanman became the overall winner by virtue of an additional place.
Owen said: “We weren’t going to chase the title, but he would have run in two more point-to-points and we’d have taken it from there. We were eyeing up the Queens Cup at Fakenham. He’s still a novice under Rules so we have options, and he’s a tough horse.
“We’ll have six or seven pointers to run this season, but I’m in no rush to start early.”
Owen’s busy work schedule covers a range of thoroughbred disciplines. He pre-trains and now consigns horses for Rabbah Bloodstock – a Dubai-based group of businessmen who own Flat horses which are kept with many leading trainers – and is preparing a string of 28 Arab horses for the Arabian Racing Organisation season which, due to Covid restrictions, is set to finally get underway in September. He was champion trainer in that discipline last year when sending out 15 winners.