Warren Greatrex has warned challengers to Cole Harden’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle crown to expect “a different horse” at the Cheltenham Festival.
The seven-year-old has met with defeat in both his starts this season, but the Upper Lambourn handler feels his stable star will be at the peak of his powers in his bid to land back-to-back victories in the Grade One, for which he is as big as 10-1, on March 17.
Greatrex said: “With him only having two runs he will be going there a much fresher horse and it’s all I’ve been training him for.
“If he did like soft ground we would be going there as a 6-4 shot, but, as I’ve said all along, he really doesn’t like the soft ground.
“We know how to get him ready after a break – that’s not an issue.
“With a little bit of sun on his back and getting the good ground, you will see a different horse in the spring.”
Third on his seasonal return in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November, Cole Harden filled the same spot behind Camping Ground on his most recent outing in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
Greatrex said: “Cole Harden has come out of the race well and he was not excessively tired. He came back fresh and has cantered.
“He seems to be all good and he won’t run now until Cheltenham.
“I now have nine and a half weeks to get him spot-on, whereas those horses that run in the Cleeve Hurdle will have had a hard race and only have six weeks to get ready.
“It is the same as last year – bookmakers see a new thing out there and they are all over it.
“Camping Ground was impressive at Cheltenham, but Top Notch was the only one out of the fancied horses that would have liked the ground.
“They (Camping Ground) took advantage and got through the ground well, but we know it will be a different kettle of fish on good ground in March.”
Meanwhile hugely exciting novice chaser Ar Mad is on a mid-season break before trainer Gary Moore decides whether or not he takes him to the Cheltenham Festival.
After an erratic display at Plumpton on his chasing debut, Moore was quick to rule out going left-handed with him any time soon.
However, wins in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown and in the Wayward Lad at Kempton, where he beat a strong Arkle candidate in Vaniteux, have given Moore cause for thought.
“Ar Mad is grand, but he’s on a break at the minute, simply because there are no races for him now until Cheltenham,” said the West Sussex handler.
“The only options are the Clarence House (Ascot) or the Game Spirit (Newbury) and I don’t want him taking on those out of novice company.
“There’s the Lightning Stakes at Doncaster but I’d rather find out about the left-handed thing at Cheltenham.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people I respect about this and some say he’ll be fine and others say to stick to what you know.
“If he didn’t go to Cheltenham, there are races at Leopardstown and Fairyhouse for him but he’d never want the ground too quick.”
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