Cole Harden on sidelines as Greatrex welcomes Hemmings arrivals
Warren Greatrex, buoyed by the arrival of two youngsters from leading owner Trevor Hemmings, will enter the core part of the jumps season without the horse who provided him with his finest hour after revealing Cole Harden will be on the easy list until Christmas, when a decision on his immediate future is due to be made.
The 2015 World Hurdle hero began last season over fences, but was switched back to hurdling, running with credit when second in the Cleeve and fourth in the Stayers' Hurdle.
His last two runs have come in beginners' chases, but an ongoing knee issue has prevented him showing his best, according to Greatrex.
"Cole Harden is going to be out for at least the first half of the season," said the Lambourn trainer. "He's had this ongoing issue with a knee and had cartilage removed two seasons ago, which has been okay since, but now there seems to be an issue behind his knee and it's more soft-tissue damage than anything skeletal.
"He went for another bone scan and nothing came to light, but he is lame and after discussing with the vets and owners we decided that as he hasn't had a proper break for a couple of seasons he's been turned away and we'll look at him at Christmas.
"If he comes right, we could look to train him for the big festivals at the end of the season and if there's been improvement, but not enough, we might leave him this season with a view to bringing him back the following season after a real, long preparation."
Greatrex, who trains the eight-year-old for Jill and Robin Eynon, added: "It's very doubtful he'll jump fences again, but when you've got a horse like him you're trying to give him the easiest route and that was to jump fences, but he's not been fully sound.
"It's a credit to the team here who have kept him going as he's had wind issues and soundness issues. He owes us nothing and he's done everything for my career, and the best decision will be made at Christmas. You see him in the yard and he's bouncing, but he's not right – hopefully the rest might do him the world of good."
'Plenty to look forward to'
As well as having horses for Hemmings, Greatrex will also train for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing for the first time.
"We've got plenty of young horses coming through and I feel privileged to have Trevor Hemmings join the ranks this season," he said. "We've got two four-year-olds – Invisible Clouds and Begbie –who are not in full work, but look very nice.
"It's great and I'd like to think it shows we're doing a good job as he's an extremely respected owner. It's the same with Highclere, who have sent us Peculiar Places. He's doing everything right up the gallops at home and looks an exciting recruit who could run in a bumper towards the end of October."
Champion Bumper fifth Western Ryder, smart mares La Bague Au Roi and The Nipper are others Greatrex has to look forward to, while National Hunt Chase runner-up Missed Approach will be targeted at the Randox Health Grand National and may start in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.