Cole Harden could have another run over fences before he potentially bids to regain his crown in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Warren Greatrex’s stable star was an all-the-way winner of the three-mile Grade One in 2015, but could only finish fourth behind the brilliant Thistlecrack last March.
Connections were looking forward to a novice chasing campaign this term but the slightly fragile gelding’s comeback was delayed, and he was beaten when he did eventually kick off his new career at Wetherby last month.
Greatrex decided to send Cole Harden back over the smaller obstacles in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and he was far from disgraced in finishing third on ground that was softer than ideal.
“He ran really well the other day,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.
“It was unfortunate Gavin (Sheehan) couldn’t ride him because of his injury, but Richard Johnson was delighted with the way he felt.
“He was enthusiastic and jumped well. He was beaten 20 lengths in the Relkeel last year and just over seven this time.
“I’m not sure whether the run over fences has sharpened him up, the cheekpieces, or whether it was because we’d changed his routine. It was probably a combination of all the things.
“He’ll get an entry in the World Hurdle, but I might run him in another novice chase in the meantime.
“I’m not really worried about the time of year as he’s a horse I think we need to enjoy while we can.
“We all know he has ongoing knee issues and wind issues.
“I just think it (running in a novice chase) might give him some confidence and we know he can perform on the big day.
“The race looks quite open this year, so we’ll see.”