WARREN greatrex, one of the rising stars of the training ranks, already has a special affinity with Wetherby. His World Hurdle hero Cole Harden began his Cheltenham-winning campaign at the Yorkshire track last November.
Now Greatrex hopes history will repeat itself when Dolatulo, the imposing winner of the Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day, lines up in the 40-runner Crabbie’s Grand National this Saturday alongside stablemate Tranquil Sea.
At the end of a breakthrough year, these will be the handler’s first runners in the world’s greatest steeplechase and the magnitude of the race struck home when he erected plaques at his yard to denote the stables of the past equine greats trained at Uplands in Lambourn.
Though Dolatulo or Tranquil Sea will earn the right to join the Uplands hall of fame in five days, Greatrex is acutely aware that his yard was home to the legendary Fred Winter who saddled Jay Trump and Anglo to Aintree glory in 1965 and 1966.
Owned by Betfair founder Andrew Black, Dolatulo was previously in the care of champion trainer Paul Nicholls before being picked up for a bargain 4,500 euros at the Arqana stables.
The horse’s rise through the ranks is also emblematic of the progress that Greatrex has made, and which culminated with his tearful reaction after Cole Harden led from start to finish to land the Ladbrokes World Hurdle under stable jockey Gavin Sheehan.
“Dolatulo was a bit of a gamble to be honest but those juvenile hurdlers do a lot early and our thinking was we could freshen him up a bit. He was and is a bit of a thinker and it was about getting it out of him,” he explained.
“At the start of the season I was thinking of possibly going down the cross-country route with him as he’d been busy for the last two seasons and I didn’t want to run him as much.
“Fairly early on I started thinking of the National, though, and we ran him in the Grand Sefton over the fences in November. I probably should have run him in the Becher but the ground was softish and it could have turned in to a test, I thought. Denis O’Regan rode him in the Sefton and he absolutely loved him and said he’d have won but the trip was too short.”
Given all his form had been over trips short of three miles, a relatively new entry qualification system means horses now have to prove their suitability for the race by finishing in the first four over three miles or more.
“After the Sefton we decided to build towards the National but we needed to get him qualified so he went up to Wetherby for the Rowland Meyrick,” said Greatrex.
“I was pretty sure he’d stay and he won that well. A few people who know a lot more than me about training horses for the National said after that he looked the ideal type. We’ll be going to Aintree as a fresh horse and hopefully he’ll rise to the occasion.”
Despite having already achieved great things at Cheltenham, Greatrex has not even contemplated resting on his laurels. He said: “As he’s only eight he could be the type of horse who runs in the National a few times as I was really chuffed with how he took to the fences. He’s not a slow horse and has a good cruising speed, but he stays.
“After what happened at Cheltenham I haven’t even begun to think about winning the National, it would be a dream come true. All we can do is get him there in the best possible shape and I think he’s got a live each-way shout. Cheltenham was a dream but this is a bigger dream. We’re not satisfied, though, it’s like a drug. The more you win the more you want to win.”
Greatrex confirmed that Dougie Costello, who was aboard Dolatulo in the Rowland Meyrick, will partner the horse at Aintree, with the aforementioned Sheehan aboard the veteran Tranquil Sea. The trainer says continuity is important when it comes to riding arrangements.
As for Cole Harden, he remains on course for the Grade One Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle on National day while Kaysersberg, a two-time Wetherby winner this season, runs in the Injured Jockeys’ Fund Handicap Hurdle on Thursday. “I like Wetherby and we’ve done well there. Hopefully we can put the track on the map,” added Greatrex.
Michael Scudamore is delighted to have secured the services of Grand National-winning jockey Liam Treadwell to partner Monbeg Dude in the Aintree spectacular next Saturday.
Treadwell struck gold aboard 100-1 shot Mon Mome in 2009 and will next weekend partner a horse who performed with great credit when seventh in the National 12 months ago. Mon Mome is co-owned by Otley-born rugby international Mike Tindall.