On Friday, Cheltenham and Doncaster return to our screens and Tom George heads into the weekend with a strong hand. We spoke to the Gloucestershire based trainer to discuss his runners on Friday and Saturday.
Captain Blackpearl and Doctor Dex Doncaster bound
A month after winning at Kempton in emphatic fashion, Captain Blackpearl heads to Doncaster with a favourite’s chance in the Novices' Limited Handicap Chase. His 13 length victory in November has seen his mark raised from 114 to 127. That is a stiff hike to overcome, however, George thinks there is plenty more to come from this inexperienced sort:
“He is just six-years-old and has only seen a racetrack five times. We didn’t want to overrun him when taking on the hurdles as we always knew he would develop into a proper chasing sort,” George told the Tote.
The Slad handler went on to confirm that Captain Blackpearl has come out of his victory very well and he insists that Doncaster was the right choice.
“He’s in top form and warrants being top of the market. It was a pretty simple decision to go for Doncaster over Cheltenham. He’s young and inexperienced but we hope he gets to Cheltenham at some point this season.”
Doctor Dex had some trouble last season after getting his chasing career off to a great start. He returns hurdling and George is hoping that he can recapture his form of old and get back to the winner’s enclosure.
“We’ve been a bit unfortunate with Doctor Dex. He’s been pulled up twice now and hasn’t looked to be enjoying himself over the fences. He goes back to what we know works with him and all he needs is a bit of confidence and concentration to fire again.
Doctor Dex wins on chasing debut at Ascot last season
Two-pronged attack on Peterborough Chase
It is a luxury to be able to send two horses to Cheltenham to compete in Grade 2s. However, there is a dash of luck about this race for Tom George as the Peterborough Chase was moved from Huntingdon to Cheltenham which he thought he might not have a runner in.
“With Bun Doran we are slightly going into unknown territory. He is a two-miler that has placed in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Whether he will get the extra half mile is unknown but he might just upset the odds with his high cruising speed.”
The nine-year-old likes the track and has only finished outside the top three here on one occasion. “It is certainly worth the risk sending him here and if he can jump anything like he did last season, he will have a chance.”
Clondaw Castle’s win at Newbury last time out was a brilliant result and George thinks that the eight-year-old is still progressing. “His win a few weeks ago confirmed that he is getting better and better. His jumping was spot on and travelled perfectly. There are others in the race with a lot more to prove.” This might be a big step up in class but there was no hiding that George thinks his stable star has a huge chance.
Boyhood victory would be an emotional one
The final race at Cheltenham on Friday is a Handicap Hurdle and George once again has two runners in this competitive race. Firstly, Come On Teddy who George thinks could come in as an underdog.
“We are hoping Come On Teddy is the right side of the handicapper. There are loads in the race and all will have a good chance but our boy is fit, well and not carrying very much.” Sam Twiston-Davies takes the ride, and no one can doubt his ability at this track.
George’s second runner is Boyhood. The yard very nearly had to say goodbye to this nine-year-old in the summer as he had a terrible bout of colic. He was operated on and the team are lucky to still have him there. “He’s back and it is fair to say that it would be quite emotional for the owners and team to have a winner at Cheltenham with him after thinking we might have to say goodbye.”
Boyhood had a severe case of colic in the summer
Summerville Boy has won over this trip before
On Saturday, Summerville Boy will be looking to cause a bit of a shock in the International Hurdle. “There were no races over two and a half so we are right back into the shorter distance.”
It is a very strong renewal of this race with the Moores sending Goshen, Skeltons with Ch’tibello, Alan King with Sceau Royal, Tom Symonds with Song For Someone and many more.
“He wasn’t quite seeing out the three miles but dropping him back this far doesn’t scare us at all. He won the Supreme over this trip so there is no reason why he won’t compete here.” George believes this is great prep for bigger targets in the season and thinks he will hold his own. “He is a very strong traveller and is very fast so do not discount him.”
Summerville Boy drops in trip for the International Hurdle
Springfield Fox full steam ahead for the Welsh National
Having the winner of the Welsh National is as difficult as it gets. Tom George looks to have one of the biggest chances in the race with Springfield Fox and the long term plan is in full flow. “He was great on his reappearance at Chepstow last week. He had a good blow but we didn’t want to be too hard on him. He likes it as heavy as it gets, bottomless and providing there are no scares over the next few weeks, he will go there with a huge chance at a track he loves, ground he loves and a run under his belt.