Warren Greatrex was left fighting back the tears after stable star Cole Harden produced a fantastic front-running display to clinch glory in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
One of the emerging stars of the training ranks in recent years, Greatrex moved to Uplands stables in Upper Lambourn with a team of just 15 horses after a spell as private trainer to Malcolm Denmark came to an end in 2012 and his subsequent progress has been rapid, with Cole Harden the star in a 70-plus strong string.
A talented bumper performer before mixing it with the best as a novice hurdler last season, the six-year-old got the current campaign off to a fine start with victory at Wetherby in early November, but floundered in the winter mud.
A particularly disappointing effort in January’s Cleeve Hurdle caused Greatrex to take immediate action and with a breathing operation working the oracle, he provided his trainer and fledgling jockey Gavin Sheehan with a first taste of Festival success.
Greatrex, whose grounding in the sport included spells working for legendary trainers David ‘Duke’ Nicholson and Josh Gifford, leapt for joy in the parade ring.
He said: “I’d like to think I’m quite a cool customer, but it’s all gone wrong and it turns out I’m (crying) like a girl! The Duke would have been kicking me!
“We’ve just won the World Hurdle. I can’t believe it. The wind operation’s worked hasn’t it? I’m never short of words, but I’m shocked.”
As is his wont, the 14-1 chance was quickly bowling along at the head of affairs, with his rivals seemingly not too concerned to give him plenty of rope.
That proved fatal for their chances, however, as Sheehan gradually wound up the pace and it was clear after jumping the second flight from the finish the capitulation the other riders were perhaps anticipating was not going to happen.
Cole Harden galloped on relentlessly to the final flight, skipped over in style and bounded clear up the famous hill to beat the Paul Nicholls-trained pair Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkandar by three and a quarter lengths.
Greatrex said: “We’ve just won a Grade One and beat the best, so we’re here, aren’t we?
“If you’re going to break your duck (at Cheltenham), you may as well do it in a big one.”