WARREN Greatrex has had to abandon plans to give Cole Harden an easy week after the World Hurdle hero bounced out of the Cheltenham Festival in great order.
The plan is now to run him in the Liverpool Hurdle at the Crabbie’s Grand National meeting, as long as he remains on good terms with himself.
So well did Cole Harden take the race that the six-year-old already weighs more than he did before his heroic all-the-way win last Thursday.
Victory would cap a breakthrough season for Greatrex, and jockey Gavin Sheehan, after Cole Harden came to prominence with an eye-catching win in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall meeting.
“The plan was to give him a quiet week after Cheltenham but he’s so fresh and well I gave him a canter yesterday morning,” said Greatrex. “He’s taken his race so well that he weighs four kilos heavier than he did a day before the World Hurdle.
“He’s got a great constitution, he just loves it. Last season he led Faugheen into the straight in the Neptune and then bettered that at Aintree when second to Beat That in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle.
“As long as he’s 100 per cent, that is where he’ll go, but if he’s 99 per cent he won’t. I don’t want to build him up, but he could be even better there. He seems in tip-top form.”
Meanwhile, Dr Richard Newland admits last year’s winner Pineau De Re will have to “raise his game” when he bids to defend his Crabbie’s Grand National crown next month.
The 2014 Aintree hero was only 11th behind Call The Cops in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Final at Cheltenham last week, having finished third last season on his way to lifting the world’s most famous steeplechase.
Newland will now put his stable star through the same routine as last spring before he attempts to repeat his landmark victory on April 11.
“He’s okay. He’ll have to raise his game for Aintree, but we’re on track,” said the trainer.
“We’ll be trying again and will do the same with him as last year in the build-up.”
Newland has a second Grand National entry in Royale Knight, although the nine-year-old may not make the cut and has the Coral Scottish Grand National as a back-up.
Geoff Oldroyd is convinced course specialist Alfred Hutchinson can put up another good performance in the £150,000 Ladbrokes All-Weather Mile on Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday.
The three-time course winner was third behind Captain Cat on the inaugural card last year and Oldroyd is expecting another bold show.
The seven-year-old has been kept for this race since finishing second to Tracey Collins’s Irish raider Captain Joy in a fast-track qualifier over the course and distance in January.
“His preparation is going great and we are looking forward to it,” said the North Yorkshire trainer. “Jim Crowley actually felt he was a little bit unlucky against Captain Joy last time as he knocked us off balance turning for home.
“It was tactical as well and Alfred Hutchinson is better off a strong pace. Jim felt he would beat the Irish horse next time and he is one of the ante-post favourites.
“We put the visor on because he has got a little bit lazy, especially in front. He often gets there and feels he has done enough, so we will probably keep it on. He loves it around Lingfield and if they go a nice clip, it will really suit him in what looks an open race.”