RSA Hope Black Op Set for Kauto Star Mission

Trainer Tom George has revealed that Black Op, a current 20/1 with William Hill in the ante post betting for the RSA Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival will step back up to the 2m trip of that contest in his next assignment – the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The eight-year-old, who finished runner-up to Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival before striking Grade 1 glory at Aintree, initially failed to shien when sent over fences last autumn. However,following a wind-up over the summer, Black Op has got his career back on track over the larger obstacles.

After impressively beating Mr Antolini by 15 lengths on return at action at Stratford in October he found only the hugely exciting Champ too good when beaten just under two lengths in the Grade 2 Berkshire Chase at Newbury last month.

George told At The Races:

“Black Op is in great form and has come out of his last run really well.
“We’ll step him up in trip now, and all being well we’ll aim for the Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day. I think stepping up to three miles will suit him.”

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Plans Fluid for Stablemate Summerville Boy

Like Black Op, 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Summerville Boy looked to be back on track and sent for a big season when winning on his chasing bow at Uttoxeter.

That victory saw him sent off a well-backed 11/4 second favourite for the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown but he was always struggling following a bad mistake at the fourth and was the weakening and beaten when coming to grief at the water jump.

George said:

“Summerville Boy is A1. Obviously that is the last thing we wanted to happen at Sandown, but the vet has checked him over and he’s fine – which is the main thing.
“I think he made a bad mistake at the ditch and then he saw a water jump for the first time and panicked and ended up on the ground. We’ll see how he is in the next week or so, and then make a plan.”

 

Star Mare Honeysuckle to Swerve Christmas Period

Top Irish handler Henry de Bromhead has confirmed that his star mare Honeysuckle will not be in action over the busy Christmas period – but has identified three potential targets for his unbeaten five-year-old.

The daughter of Sulumani took the step up into Grade 1 company in her stride earlier in the month when romping to an impressive nine length success over Bacardys in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle over 2m 4f at Fairyhouse.

That stunning success was her sixth on the bounce over the obstacles for Honeysuckle who joined De Bromhead after winning her sole start in an Irish point.

She could now either drop down to 2m for the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, go to Gowran for the Red Mills Hurdle or revert to her own sex in Quevega mares’ Hurdleat at Punchestown.

Her handler said:

“She’s in good form since her win in the Hatton’s Grace, but she definitely won’t run at Christmas. We’ll wait until February and I’m not sure yet where she will run.
“The Irish Champion Hurdle, the Red Mills and the Quevega Mares Hurdle in Punchestown would be three options that stand out as a race before Cheltenham.”

If Honeysuckle did go down the Irish Champion Hurdle route, and emerged successful, then connections would surely be sorely tempted to let her take her chance in the Champion Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
The race currently has a very wide-open look to it and Honeysuckle is 10/1 with Coral for the Grade 1 feature on the opening day of the four-day extravaganza next March.

She also has the easier option of running against her own sex in the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle on the same day and is 2/1 with Betfred for that contest. To me she looks the real deal, and if she were mine then I would definitely be going down the Champion Hurdle route as that race if far more prestigious and there is nothing to lose by having a tilt at it.

Andy Dufresne Suffers Shock First Defeat

The highly-touted Andy Dufresne lost his unbeaten record when finding Latest Exhibition just over two lengths too good in the 2m 4f Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle.

Owned by JP McManus, the five-year-old had been at the head of the betting for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival having won his sole start im a bumper last season before putting in a scintillating success on debut over the obstacles at Navan last month.

However, he is now out to 25/1 and 16/1 respectively for those Grade 1 contests following a performance which left his handler Gordon Elliott baffled. Andy Dufresne attempted to male all and looked to be travelling strongly entering the straight.

But when Paul Nolan’s six-year-old, who had made a bad mistake down the back straight, was produced to take up the running at the second last he found very little for pressure.

Latest Exhibition then asserted on the run-in to register a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths success and earn quotes of 16-1 for the Albert Bartlett and 20-1 for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with Paddy Power.
Elliott felt Andy Dufresne did not run to his best and admitted it was now a case of back to the drawing board with him.

Speaking on Racing TV, the County Meath based handler said:

“I don’t think he finished his race out. From the last to the line he was up and down in the one spot.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the winner – he was very good. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

 

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