Cheltenham Festival 2015: Greatrex reveals softer side after Harden blazes trail to World Hurdle win

 

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The Independent Online

Willie Mullins, Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls have predictably dominated proceedings this week, but Cheltenham would not be Cheltenham without the smaller operator getting a look-in and this year it fell to trainer Warren Greatrex to provide a moment to savour when bursting into floods of tears after Cole Harden’s victory in the World Hurdle.

It was a first Festival triumph for Greatrex and for last year’s champion conditional jockey Gavin Sheehan, who, riding the front-runner with the confidence and tactical nous of an old hand, kept enough up his sleeve to hold off Nicholls’ two-pronged challenge of Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkandar.

Greatrex was optimistic a wind operation would help Cole Harden to produce better than on his last two starts and his confidence increased further when the rain stayed away. “I’ve never had him better and the good ground was important, but you just don’t believe you’re going to win a race like this,” the trainer said. “Anyone who knows me knows I can talk all day, but now I’m stuck for words.”

 

Vautour delivered a stunning performance in the JLT Chase to complete a clean sweep of the Festival’s Grade One novice chases for Mullins’ stable, with a display of bold, flawless jumping.  “He just flew those fences,” said the trainer. “I’ve never seen anything quite like that from a novice.”

Noel Meade, trainer of the runner-up Apache Stronghold, acknowledged: “That winner is an aeroplane. My horse ran a cracker, but one thing’s for sure, wherever  Vautour goes after this, we won’t be going!”

Vautour is now the chief market rival to his stablemate Don Poli, a winner here on Wednesday, for next year’s Gold Cup. “Like Don Poli, he’s definitely a Gold Cup horse,” said Mullins, who confessed to being quite “numb” with joy at the magnitude of his stable’s achievements this week: a personal best of six wins from the first three days and the promise of more to come this afternoon.

Nicky Henderson, the only man to have trained more than 50 Festival winners, finally joined this year’s party when Call The Cops landed the Coral Hurdle.

Kim Bailey, back in the big time after so long in the doldrums, took the Brown Chase with 33-1 outsider Darna.

The Package, a second winner of the meeting for both trainer David Pipe and rider Jamie Codd, won an incident-packed finale, a Festival success at long last for the veteran chaser, placed three times on four previous visits.

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