Winning the Grand National remains a major priority for trainer Warren Greatrex – and with two potential contenders among his ranks, chances are it could be his turn to triumph in the Aintree marathon.
After saying farewell to stable stars Cole Harden and One Track Mind during the latter part of last season, replacements are needed to fly the flag for the Lambourn handler, and in Missed Approach he could have an ideal candidate.
Having provided Greatrex with his second Cheltenham Festival winner with a bold-front running victory in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup in March, hopes are high the eight-year-old can go on to scale even bigger heights.
He said: “Missed Approach was brilliant last season and Noel McParlan gave him an unbelievable ride at Cheltenham. The bet365 (Gold Cup) at Sandown was one race too many for him.
“The Grand National was the plan last year, but I got it a bit wrong and his handicap mark went down rather than up.
“He will have three runs before it and that will be him done until February, then I would wait until the weights come out and run him in a graded race.
“I do think he will jump the fences and I think the occasion of Aintree will suit him, as he is a horse that comes alive at the big meetings.”
Experience over the famous Aintree birch counts for plenty and having finished third in the Topham last season, there is a real belief second-season novice Theatre Territory could find the required improvement to tackle the world-famous marathon.
Greatrex added: “If she developed, she could have the National written all over her. She finished third in the Topham and if you look through her form last year, it’s incredible.
“She is a thorough stayer who would stay the trip and jumps for fun. All she needs to do is go up 10lb in the weights.”
There are few more imposing mares in training than Grade Two winner La Bague Au Roi and while the seven-year-old just came up short on her final two starts at the top table, Greatrex is optimistic she can be a force to be reckoned with over fences.
He said: “La Bague Au Roi is built for chasing. She has schooled over fences and jumps very well. If she can perform and do what she did over hurdles, she should be a better chaser.
“If she can jump economically, like she did over hurdles, she will be a force, and if the weather was right the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton could be right up her street.”
Greatrex knows what it takes to train a Stayers’ Hurdle winner, and in Keeper Hill he feels he could have another possible candidate on his hands should he decide to go down that route.
He said: “He ran well last year, he won a Grade Two novice chase at Doncaster and I’m adamant he would have won at Musselburgh when he fell.
“At Cheltenham he only got over a few fences and we probably should have gone for a smaller race as opposed to going to Ayr to get his confidence back. He had a kissing spine and was operated on over the summer, but he is back in now.
“He will start over hurdles and will probably go to Wetherby for the West Yorkshire Hurdle. I still think there is quite a bit he could do over hurdles. If he takes to it, who says he can’t develop into a Stayers’ Hurdle type of horse?”
A big win has so far eluded Western Ryder, but with a season over hurdles under his belt, Greatrex is optimistic a change in fortune is just around the corner.
He said: “He was unlucky not to be placed in the Supreme, as he got badly hampered two out and stayed on strongly to finish sixth, then he didn’t quite see out the two and a half miles at Aintree, although that came at the end of a long season.
“He is a horse that loves a strong pace and loves to run horses down. The main aim will be the Greatwood. Off 145, from what I’ve seen, he should be better than that.”
Others to follow:
“Max McNeil has purchased half of him with Terry Warner. He was second at Chepstow and won at Ffos Las. He will stay over hurdles as he has only had two runs in points. He is a nice chasing type.”
“He won a bumper at Uttoxeter. I should have put him away there and then. He got stuck in the mud at Bangor and Kempton and ran really well to finish second at Newbury. He is exciting for this season over hurdles.”
“He got a slight stress fracture behind, but he is fine now. He has had a long time out, but I think he is up there with my best novice hurdlers.”
“He has loads of talent, but he did all he could to get beat on a lot of occasions. He ran a hell of a race at Ayr after winning at Wetherby and if that race at Ayr has brought him on he could be a proper horse. I think he is made for fences.”
“He won a Warwick bumper and I loved him all last season. He has got the right attitude and does everything really well. I would be surprised if he is not very good over hurdles.”
“He is a Grade Three winner and a proper Saturday horse. He is still a novice and could develop into a nice staying chaser.”
“He likes soft ground and wants a trip. Three miles on soft ground could see him develop into a good horse.”
“He should have won the Challow Hurdle, but it was a great performance in defeat. He will go chasing and will be better over fences. He is one of my favourite horses in training. I don’t think he would be far off winning a Grade One in bottomless ground.”
“She struggled at the start of last season with issues tying up. She did well after that and I think she should have got a lot closer in the mares’ final at Newbury. She will stay hurdling to start with and is a Listed mare.
Rock My Style
“We looked after him a bit last year, as he was growing a bit. He has schooled over fences and jumps well. He is lazy but talented. He should develop into a good chaser as well.”