Cole Harden provided trainer Warren Greatrex and jockey Gavin Sheehan with their first Cheltenham Festival winner, taking the Ladbrokes World Hurdle today (Thursday 12 March).
The six-year-old gelding led throughout and won by three and a quarter lengths from Saphir Du Rheu, trained by Paul Nicholls. In third was Saphir Du Rheu’s stablemate Zarkandar who made a costly mistake two out. At Fishers Cross finished fourth.
Young jockey Gavin gave Cole Harden a bold ride from the off.
“It was amazing,” said Gavin. “That is what dreams are made of. He jumped brilliant and did everything right. He was full of running and I didn’t know whether to squeeze on earlier as he had so much running in him.
“It’s very special, very, very special. He gave me an exceptional ride. He’s got so much spark.
“He’s done nothing wrong today in my eyes. He pings off this sort of ground. When I pulled him up after the race, he still had more running in him. He doesn’t know he’s had a race even though this is a World Hurdle. This is definitely my dream come true.”
Cole Harden had undergone a wind operation following a disappointing run in the Cleeve Hurdle in January.
“I believed in the horse, but I was struggling with him early season [pre wind op],” said Lambourn-based Warren, who has 75 horses in his yard.
“It makes a big difference that Gavin knows him, and I told him to look after this horse, he’s the real deal. We’ve just won a Grade One and beat the best. That’s why we’re here.
“It means so much we are a young team coming forward. I’m normally a cool customer but I got very nervous and the emotion showed after he had won.”
Cole Harden will now have some time off and future plans include a possible career over fences.
“Cole Harden will need a rest now,” added Warren. “He has only just turned six and last season was his first as a novice. I think he’ll make a good chaser but we have to make the decision as to whether to stay at what we are good at or go chasing.”
Emotional win for McCoy
All eyes have been on AP McCoy since he announced his retirement at Newbury last month. Winners eluded him the first two days of his final Festival, but today that changed when he scored in the Ryanair Chase on the Alan King-trained Uxizandre.
Three cheers rang out around the winner’s enclosure as the 19-time champion jockey came home the victor at his final Cheltenham Festival.
“I felt joy and happiness,” said AP. “I’m not going to miss riding until the end of the season when I pack up. For now I’ve got another race and the chance of another go so I’m not for one minute thinking about the future. I’m just enjoying my job, or what’s left of it.
“Cheltenham is all about winning, and while I came to this week with a few chances I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You have to keep your head down and keep going.
“The thrill this horse gave me — I will miss riding horse like this that run away with you all the way and jump like stags. It has to happen at some point so it’s a bit sad but we will worry about it this time next year.”