Warren Greatrex is refusing to throw in the towel over fences with Grade One-winning hurdler One Track Mind.
Despite the six-year-old suffering defeats on both his chasing starts this season, the trainer believes he can still carve out a career over the larger obstacles – even if it means waiting until next season.
Having trailed home last in a Grade Two event at Newbury on his chasing bow, after failing to recover from a serious first-fence mistake, the five-times race winner could only finish third in a beginners’ contest at Catterick last week, won by the progressive Delusionsofgrandeur from the Sue Smith stable.
Greatrex said: “He has come back fine, but we will get him checked out. There were positives to take out of the race, but he is very much a work in progress.
“We will go steady with him, as he is still a relatively young horse. Newbury did hit his confidence hard; it is a case of restoring it.
“I think we would be jumping the gun if we switch him back to hurdles. As it is so early on, he deserves every chance to see if he can progress over fences.
“It could be that it is a year too early. Some horses can be like that. He could come back next season and it may well be a different story. We will not go too big, too soon. He probably just needs a bit more time.”
It has been a challenging few weeks for Greatrex and stable jockey Gavin Sheehan with One Track Mind’s runs compounded by 2015 World Hurdle winner Cole Harden being defeated on his novice chase debut at Wetherby earlier this month.
Greatrex also expects to see fellow novice chaser Missed Approach in a better light on his next start after revealing the six-year-old has undergone a wind operation since his disappointing debut over fences at Exeter.
He said: “Out of all the horses that have been beaten he is the one I’m most disappointed with as I thought he was ready to go.
“We’ve had his wind tinkered with. He has taken the operation well and will be back out after Christmas. I think he can be really smart over fences.”
Tom George believes it is premature to talk about No Duffer being a candidate for the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree in April.
The nine-year-old advertised his staying powers with a resilient victory over three miles at Doncaster, but the trainer is keen to take things one step at a time.
George said: “He is (rated) 144 at the moment and needs to go up a couple of pounds in the handicap before we can think about it, as you needed to be 145 to get in this year.
“He turns 10 next month so those veterans’ races slot in quite well. There is one at Exeter at the end of January and one at Doncaster in February.
““They are quite nice prizes and are easier options. I would have thought that is the route we would take.
“If he does go up a few more pounds we can assess his options, but we will take it a race at a time.”
All roads are set to lead back to Aintree for 2015 National runner-up Saint Are, who departed at the first fence of the Becher Chase earlier this month.
George said: “He is fine. It was just unfortunate and we can put that down to the standing start. I think it surprised the horse more than anyone. He will probably now go for the veterans’ chase final at Sandown next month.”
North Yorkshire rider Andrew Thornton is just two away from joining the elite club of jump jockeys to have ridden 1,000 winners after scoring on Barton Gift at Bangor.
The 44-year-old struck on the 28-1 shot, trained by John Spearing and carrying the colours of former trainer Mercy Rimell.
“It’s another winner and nice to do it for Mercy Rimell. She’s been a big supporter of mine. They have been very lucky colours for me with horses like Simon and Gaye Brief,” said Thornton.
Foinavon jockey John Buckingham dies: Page 7.