WARREN GREATREX will think globally if Dolatulo becomes the first horse to win successive renewals of the Rowland Meyrick Chase, Wetherby’s Boxing Day highlight.
The in-form trainer has the Swedish and American Nationals in mind after the steeplechaser failed to see out the four mile-plus trip in Aintree’s Grand National last April.
Though the horse was a very pleasing third on his seasonal reappearance in this month’s Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree, this test was a mile shorter than the formidable 30-fence test which confronts the National field.
This year’s Rowland Meyrick, instigated in 1957 in honour of Wetherby’s former clerk of the course, has attracted potentially top-class horses like Jonjo O’Neill’s Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth Holywell and Sam Winner from the yard of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, and Dolatulo could be quite favourably weighted.
“He’s in good form and came out of Aintree well,” Greatrex told The Yorkshire Post. “He won it last year and he might have quite a nice weight.
“He’s in good nick and handles the track. The ground won’t be an issue – it could be bottomless, or good, and it wouldn’t make any difference.
“Last season, he didn’t stay in the National so we might think about the Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival.
“Then there’s always the Swedish National and American National. The owners are very sporting and the horse doesn’t owe anyone anything.”
Greatrex has not looked back since his flurry of winners at Wetherby in the first half of the 2014-15 campaign.
His flagbearer remains Cole Harden who won the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival following an imposing victory in the West Yorkshire Hurdle.
After a battling comeback run at Newbury, Greatrex reports his stable star on course for the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day before his World Hurdle defence.
Despite Thistlecrack’s supremely impressive win in Saturday’s Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot under Tom Scudamore, Greatrex maintains that Cole Harden is still the horse to beat – especially on good ground.
“He’s been a great horse for me and he’s only just turning seven,” said the trainer. “Having won one Grade One, we want to win another. Hopefully there will be many more big days with him.”
He also holds recent Lingfield winner Chef D’Oeuvre in the highest regard – this four-year-old novice could reappear in next week’s Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury. A 28-length winner under Gavin Sheehan, Greatrex is slightly concerned that the horse’s revised rating might not reflect the quality of the Lingfield race in which several of the protagonists did not handle the desperately soft ground.
Elsewhere Sue Smith hopes a drop down in the handicap will boost No Planning’s chances in the Rowland Meyrick – the horse won a handicap hurdle at Wetherby on Boxing Day last year.
The High Eldwick trainer, buoyed by the big race success of Wakanda at Ascot on Saturday, is set to run Mwaleshi in Sunday’s Castleford Chase at Wetherby. She believes the drop back in trip could suit the horse.
Meanwhile the highly promising Good Vibration, second on each of his two most recent starts, is likely to head to Sedgefield on Boxing Day while Not a Bother Boy is a likely contender in Saturday’s Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen. The winner of his last three starts, the horse – owned by Smith and her husband Harvey – has provided invaluable opportunities to the stable’s young conditionals Trevor Ryan and Robert Hogg.