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Greatrex hoping to build on Cole success in 2017
17 Feb 2017 | Cheltenham Racecourse 

Trainer Warren Greatrex has a talented team of horses assembled for The Festival next month and is hoping the stable can add to Cole Harden's front-running victory in the 2015 Stayers' Hurdle.


Greatrex took out a licence in 2009 as a salaried trainer to Malcolm Denmark and, after relinquishing the role and moving to the famous Uplands training facility in 2012, where the great Fred Winter was based for many years, his career has gone from strength to strength.


Cole Harden's triumph was the highlight of an excellent season for the Lambourn handler, which ended with 51 winners and well over half a million pounds in win and place prize money.


"Cole Harden winning the Stayers' Hurdle was a fantastic day," recalled Greatrex. "The horse had been prepared in tip top shape and we knew we had him in great form. Did I think he was going to win? No, but I definitely thought he could run a big race.

"It was unreal watching it. Everything went like clockwork. You found yourself counting down the hurdles as he went along and it was becoming more and more real that he was going to win it.

"From when you start training, these are the sort of races you want to be winning. Everyone knows Cheltenham is our biggest meeting of the season, there are only so many races to be won, and we won one of the big four.


"To do that you definitely get looked at differently at by your peers because you are suddenly in the big league. There is more pressure afterwards because you are expected to do it year on year, but it proves to everyone out there that you can do it on the big stage."


Cole Harden was a well-beaten fourth behind Thistlecrack in last year's Stayers' Hurdle but has produced two promising displays over hurdles at Cheltenham this season. The eight-year-old was third in the G2 Relkeel Hurdle on New Year's Day before finishing second to Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle favourite Unowhatimeanharry in the G2 Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day.


"Judged on his last two performances, it looks like Cole Harden is on the way back," said Greatrex. "The Cleeve Hurdle was basically his best run since he won the Stayers' Hurdle and that was on ground that he doesn't enjoy.


"He was suffering from a knee injury last year. He was finding it hard and I think it was getting him down. This season, he seems to have a new lease of life and his work has been brilliant. We haven't had any hold ups at the moment and touch wood it all goes to plan between now and then because seems in as good a form as when he won it.


"I have got the utmost respect for the favourite Unowhatimeanharry. He looks very solid and is definitely the one to beat. If the ground came up good, he might be a bit more vulnerable than on softer ground, whereas we are the other way round.


"I don't know what the Irish are bringing over but, after that run in the Cleeve, in my view we are the second best of the British runners. We know if we can get him there in top form he is capable of running a very big race."


Greatrex's Cheltenham contenders also include La Bague Au Roi, who was won six of her seven careers starts and is the leading British-trained hope for the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle, Weatherbys Champion Bumper fancy Western Ryder and Keeper Hill, winner of the Listed Sidney Banks Memorial Novices' Hurdle at Huntingdon on February 9.

"La Bague Au Roi is doing really well," reported the trainer. "We are really excited by her. She is going to Cheltenham with a leading chance and should run a huge race.


"She obviously won her three hurdles early on, then had a winter break and has been back for a few weeks now. She looks really, really well and has started doing some easier pieces of work.

"She has only disappointed me once and that was at Aintree last season when I am adamant she wasn't right. Apart from that, she has looked extremely good and her hurdling has improved with each run. She beat some good yardsticks at Newbury on her last start - the second horse [Dusky Legend] was second to Limini at Cheltenham last year.


"She has been leading in her races but I don't think she needs to and I actually think she might be better with a lead. We have been making the running because the field have been small and we didn't want a falsely run race.

"Western Ryder will go for the Champion Bumper, all being well. Like anything, I was gutted he got beat at Newbury but to give 21lb away to a horse that Nicky Henderson thinks the world of is a huge run.


"I think he will improve off the back of that, especially for a fast-run race on better ground. I think good ground and the whole atmosphere at Cheltenham will bring this horse alive. You would have to say he is one of the leading British hopes.


"I am not totally sure what we are going to do with Keeper Hill. There is a chance he might go to Aintree instead. Nothing is set in stone at the moment and he will be left in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the next stage.


"He has come out of Huntingdon in great form. He didn't do anything right and still managed to win, which is obviously the sign of a good horse, but it just depends whether or not he is ready for Cheltenham this year. He has got a huge career in front of him and I think he is a very good horse, but we have to go to mind him.

"Missed Approach could be interesting if the ground came up on the soft side. It just comes down to whether I run him in the National Hunt Chase or the Kim Muir.


"He was well below his best in the Towton last time. We missed the first and he was on the back foot from there. It was chalk and cheese compared to his win at Lingfield before that."

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