OLLIE MAGERN SET TO MAKE SEASONAL REAPPEARANCE IN THE bet365 CHARLIE HALL CHASE
The Grade Two £75,000 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, the feature race of Wetherby's two-day bet365 Charlie Hall Chase meeting on Saturday, October 29, has attracted a dozen of the country's leading chasers.
Naunton trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has revealed that his exciting chaser Ollie Magern is on course to reappear in the three mile and one furlong contest.
One of the best novice chasers of last season, Ollie Magern won five races including the Grade One Feltham Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and the Grade Two Totty Construction Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby in February, when he defeated subsequent Cheltenham Festival scorer King Harald. Ollie Magern also ran numerous other good races in defeat, notably when second to Celestial Gold in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury.
A leg injury ruled the talented seven year-old out of last year's Cheltenham Festival and the remainder of the season, however the horse is now back in good shape for his comeback and the trainer is predicting a bold showing.
Despite having not run since February 19, the trainer believes that the horse is about "90% fit" for his first start of the new campaign, for which the sponsors rate him an 11/2 chance.
Twiston-Davies revealed: "He's in very good form and I'm expecting a big run. He jumps well and there are no worries. Last season he was a course and distance winner, which is obviously encouraging and the form of that win looks very solid."
Twiston-Davies confirmed that the horse would be aimed towards the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup at Cheltenham next March, although his performance at the weekend would determine the immediate programme: "If he does well on Saturday we'll go towards the bonus races, if he doesn't prove up to it we'll go down the handicap route."
The £75,000 race, part of the BHB's Order Of Merit, was won last season by the Howard Johnson-trained Grey Abbey who went on to collect the Pillar Property Chase and Betfair Bowl, and the gallant grey could again take his chance.
Johnson is looking for a hat-trick of wins, Ballybough Rasher having taken the prize in 2003 at odds of 40/1 when defeating Marlborough.
Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Take The Stand could line up for trainer Peter Bowen who gave the nine-year-old an outing over hurdles at Uttoxeter on September 7.
Heading the market at 11/4 is Robert Alner's Kingscliff, runner-up to Kicking King in last season's King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Other contenders include Ferdy Murphy's Gala Casino's Scottish Grand National winner Joe's Edge and the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Keen Leader.
High-class staying hurdler Crystal d'Ainay, second to Telemoss in last season's Grade Two John Smith's Hurdle at the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase meeting is another possible starter. He looked an exciting recruit to the larger obstacles when finishing third to Grey Abbey in the Betfair Bowl at Aintree in April on his British chasing debut.
Paul Nicholls has two to choose from in John Smith's Grand National runner-up Royal Auclair and Colourful Life, successful last season in the valuable Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
The three remaining entries are Chives from the local Bingley yard of Sue Smith, Major Benefit and Strong Resolve.
The going at Wetherby is currently SOFT. Chief Executive James Sanderson said: "Following 15mm of rain last night and today, I changed the going to soft this afternoon.
"The forecast is for an unsettled week, with some autumnal showers although we are not expecting any deluges.
"My best guess at this stage would be for a mixture of soft and good to soft ground for the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase meeting."
Grey Abbey 7/2
Take The Stand 4
Keen Leader 5
Ollie Magern 11/2
Royal Auclair 14
Colourful Life 16
Crystal d'Ainay 16
Joes Edge 20
Strong Resolve 50
Major Benefit 150
Each-Way 1/4 1-2-3
bet365 spokesman George Primarolo said: "Kingscliff seems to have been around for years but is still relatively unexposed only having raced seven times under rules. He obviously has had his problems in the past but this could be the season where it all falls into place.
"However, the Charlie Hall will be no easy task as he faces some stiff opposition in the shape of Grey Abbey, Keen Leader and Ollie Magern but the horse could still be open to improvement and if this is the case, he will be very hard to beat."
TOM GEORGE OUTLINES HIS RUNNING PLANS FOR THE OPEN
Tom George, the Gloucestershire-based trainer, welcomed members of the press, camera crews and photographers to his Slad yard today, Monday, October 24, as part of a stable visit organised by Cheltenham Racecourse in association with Paddy Power, sponsor the feature event of The Open, the £110,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday, November 12.
The star of his stable, Lord Of Illusion, who won five chases last season is due to have his first run of the new campaign at The Open meeting at Cheltenham. The eight-year-old is being aimed at the £55,000 Servo Computer Services Handicap Chase, the big long-distance contest run over three miles, three and a half furlongs on Saturday, November 12.
Tom George said: "He was second favourite for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at Cheltenham in March, but got an infected sinus which meant he couldn't run. He had an operation during the summer and looks like he has got over that problem.
"I would have liked to have run him over hurdles as a prep race but he came in two weeks later than I had anticipated and I will probably give him a racecourse gallop next week instead.
"He is in good order and I'm looking forward to running him this season."
Another horse George is hoping to run at The Open is nine-year-old chaser The Villager, who will be having his first outing for the yard. The Villager has joined George during the summer and is owned by the Taintons, who have three horses in total at the yard.
George revealed: "The Villager has come down in the handicap a lot and is now rated 118 and I'm hoping that the change of scenery and the fact that he has been working well means that he will have a good season. He will be aimed at the Jersey Handicap Chase on the Sunday of the Open Meeting.
Calvic, like many of George's horses originated from point-to-points in Ireland. The seven-year-old won three novice chases last season.
George explained: "He will be aimed at the paddypower.com Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase on the Friday of The Open meeting. He is rated 120 and I hope he will continue to progress.
"He needs to improve to have a good chance in handicap chases - it's always more difficult with second season chasers.
Cheltenham's season starts tomorrow, Tuesday, October 25 and George has declared two runners - Swifts Hill in the Waterlaw Property Developers Novices' Hurdle and Dawton in the cheltenham.co.uk Novices' Chase, although the latter may not run if the ground gets soft.
George is looking forward to the new season: "I have 45 in, which is full-strength and the horses look well. Most of them will be ready to run in a couple of weeks.
"I am very lucky here in Gloucestershire because I have 300 acres of land to train on with three all-weather gallops.
"Cheltenham is my local track and I've been lucky enough to have had quite a few winners there."
Tom George's Horses
Calvic 51F211 (Old Vic - Calishee), seven-year-old ch g
He ran in a point-to-point in Ireland as a five-year-old, before making his debut for the yard in a Cheltenham bumper in October, 2003. He broke his duck at the third attempt in a Towcester novice hurdle over two miles and five furlongs on soft ground the next month. Calvic ran twice more in novice hurdles before going novice chasing the following season. Fifth on his first attempt at Worcester, he won next time out over two and three quarter miles at Haydock on good to soft ground in November, 2004. He rounded off his 2004-2005 campaign with two more novice chase victories, at Wincanton in January and Plumpton in February, both on soft ground. Tom George commented: "He is rated 120 and I hope he will continue to progress - he needs to improve to have a good chance in handicap chases. It is always more difficult for second season chasers."
Carthys Cross 1-0351- (Moscow Society - Sweet Tarquin), six-year-old ch g
He finished third in an Irish point-to-point and captured a Southwell National Hunt Flat race over two miles on his British debut in May , 2004. He came third on his hurdles debut in a Newton Abbot novice event over two miles and one furlong. Carthys Cross was fifth in a similar race at Exeter before finishing the campaign four months later with a stylish victory in a two-mile novice hurdle at Wincanton on good ground, beating Allumee and Earth Man in April. Tom George said: "He is another former Irish point-to-pointer bought by my father-in-law John Edwards, the former trainer. Carthys Cross is an out and out chaser and will go straight over fences this season."
Dillay Brook - (Supreme Leader - Ann's Run), five-year-old b m
This five-year-old mare, owned by Cheltenham Racing Ltd, is an unraced daughter of Supreme Leader out of the Deep Run mare and winning pointer, Ann's Run. Dillay Brook is a half-sister to Kick For Touch, a dual three-mile chase winner for Henrietta Knight in 2003, and the Richard Phillips-trained two and a half mile novice hurdle scorer, Inland Run. Tom George explained: "She is not far off being ready to run and has a good pedigree. She will want soft ground."
Garryvoe 12226- (Lord Americo - Cottage Theme), seven-year-old b g
He was successful in one of three Irish point-to-points contested - at Dungarvan - and made a winning British debut over fences in a three-mile maiden chase at Leicester on good to soft ground in December. Garryvoe then ran second in a two and a half mile novice handicap chase at Haydock on heavy ground, making several errors. He was runner-up when switching to hurdles at Plumpton in January and Warwick in February over three miles and a furlong and completed the campaign with a creditable sixth behind Another Rum in the National Hunt Chase over four miles and a furlong at The Festival in March, when partnered by Mr Tom Greenall. Tom George declared: "He jumped poorly last season and we hope to iron out this problem. He is owned by Lady Clarke and the aim is the Midlands Grand National."
Good Citizen 3440- (Good Thyne - Citizen Levee), five-year-old b g
He ran in two Irish point-to-points, finishing third first time and then was a last-fence faller when in contention next time out at Dromahane. He came third on his British debut over hurdles in a novice event at Cheltenham in December behind dual previous winner Chilling Place, and the more experienced Va Vavoom. He then lost his form. Tom George remarked: "I was never really happy with him after that first run, He has had a good summer and should have grown into himself now."
Idle Talk 141P- (Hubbly Bubbly - Belon Breeze), six-year-old br g
He is a former Irish point-to-pointer, running three times and winning once at Carrigtwohill. Idle Talk made a successful British debut when easily winning a three-mile maiden hurdle at Chepstow on soft ground by 15 lengths in October last year. He was a good fourth in a Grade Two novice hurdle over three miles at Cheltenham on good ground behind Brewster, before taking a novice hurdle in great style at Lingfield in February. He was pulled up in the Grade One Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree in April. Tom George said: "He is one of my best hopes for the season. He won two novice hurdles easily and I don't think he was quite right when fourth to Brewster at Cheltenham. Idle Talk had had enough for the season when he ran at Aintree. He jumps beautifully and will be ready to go over fences in a couple of weeks - I am hoping he will feature in the big novice chases."
Lord Of Illusion 1122111- (Mister Lord - Jellaride) eight-year-old b g
Six wins in total and five wins and two seconds last season speaks for itself. The eight-year-old has raced 14 times in all, finishing out of the first three on only four occasions. His first victory came on his third outing when he ran away with a two mile, one furlong novices' hurdle at Bangor in February, 2003, defeating Therealbandit in the process. Lord Of Illusion came into his own in 2004, landing three-mile novice chases at Wetherby, Stratford, Ludlow and Newbury on ground ranging from good to firm to good to soft. The eight-year-old was last seen on January 1 when he defeated Baron Windrush by 12 lengths in the Cheltenham and Three Counties Club Handicap Chase over three and a quarter miles. Tom George commented: "He is yet another to come out of Irish point-to-points and won five chases last season but it will not be so easy this time around off 136. He was an improving horse last season and needs to keep on improving. If he does, then he will feature in some of the big handicap chases. I favour the Servo Computer Services Handicap Chase at The Open rather than the Hennessy. He missed the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at The Festival in March because of an infected sinus but that has all cleared up now."
Mighty Matters 2P- (Muruto - Hasaway) six-year-old b g
He had one start in an Irish point-to-point when fourth in a Dromahane maiden in April, 2004. Mighty Matters made a promising debut under rules at Plumpton on February 14 when second of nine to Pontiff in a soft ground two and a quarter mile National Hunt Flat race. He was pulled up in an Exeter novice hurdle over three miles and half a furlong on March 8. Tom George explained: "He is also from Irish point-to-points. He was second in a bumper at Plumpton last season - an enormous horse. Mighty Matters will go straight to novice chasing this season at big galloping tracks like Haydock and Cheltenham."
Miss Chippy - unraced (Mister Lord - My Alanna) five-year-old ch m
Tom George explained: "She has a top-class pedigree, with black type everywhere. I bought her as a four-year-old and she is working well - I should be able to run here in a bumper soon."
River Ripples - unraced (Over The River - Aelia Paetina), six-year-old ch g
He raced five times in Irish point-to-points, finishing third on his debut at Dromahane in April, 2004. He went on to win a maiden point on heavy ground at Dungarven on January 23 this year. River Ripples is a half-brother to the Ian Williams-trained Brewster who was successful three times in novice hurdles last season including the two mile, five furlong Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury in December. Tom George said: "I bought him at the Cheltenham evening sale and I am absolutely thrilled with him. I will start him off in a bumper and then go hurdling with him. He will be ready to run in a couple of weeks."
Stack The Pack FUU6-11 (Good Thyne - Game Trix), eight-year-old ch g
He has won three of 10 starts, including a two mile, one furlong National Hunt Flat race at Newton Abbot on his second start in March, 2002. He raced only twice between then and November, 2004, when he fell in a novice chase back at the Devon track. He unseated his rider on his next two starts in novice chases when well in contention but the eight year-old came good on his most recent two starts when landing a pair of three-mile chases - at Perth in May and Uttoxeter in June. Tom George said: "He won his last two novice chases, having a serious jumping problem before that. He is naturally a good jumper - it was just a combination of things. If he can get his act together, he should carry on improving."
The Piker - (Darazari - Top Stet) unraced four-year-old br g
Tom George said: "He was in training last season but I didn't run him then. He is closely related to Opera Hat. Everything we have asked of him, he has done well."
The Villager P42F52P0- (Zaffaran - Kitty Wren), nine-year-old br g
He could have his first outing for the yard at The Open at Cheltenham next month. The nine-year-old has raced 25 times in the care of Twiston-Davies, Dennis Caro and Michael Scudamore, winning seven races from two miles, one furlong to three miles, one furlong. The Villager has also been placed six times including when third to Sir Rembrandt in the three and a quarter mile Grade Two Ian Williams' Owners Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in December, 2003. Scudamore trained The Villager for the past two seasons and the gelding posted some solid efforts including when fourth to Stormez in the Grade Three Servo Computer Services Trophy Handicap Chase over three miles three furlongs at The Open last year. He was last seen in action when 11th of 22 in the Mildmay Of Flete at The Festival in March. Tom George said: "This horse has followed my head lad. His first run will be at The Open in the Jersey Handicap Chase on the Sunday. He is working very well and looks the part."
Toulouse Lautrec 1215212- (Toulon - Bucks Slave), nine-year-old ch g
The nine-year-old is a stalwart of the stable, having made his debut in December, 2001. He opened his account at the fifth attempt under Jason Maguire in a two and a half mile novices' chase on soft ground at Uttoxeter in November, 2002. The Toulon gelding has won five of 17 starts, most recently in March when successful over three miles, six and a half furlongs on good to soft ground at Exeter. He rounded off last term with a valiant effort in the John Smith's Midlands Grand National over a marathon four miles, one and a half furlongs at Uttoxeter on March 19, going down by a length to Philson Run. Tom George remarked: "My wife Sophie bought him as unbroken four-year-old for 5,500 guineas. He seems to be strengthening up all the time. He does need four miles plus - if he could have run in the Grand National that Red Marauder won I guarantee he would have been in with a chance at the end. He will keep going in atrocious conditions and will stay forever. He would have won the Midlands National given another circuit of the course! He is rated 127 now and it would be great if we could get him in the Grand National and come up with extreme conditions."
Wind Instrument - unraced (Accordion - Windy Bee) four-year-old ch g
Tom George said: "He has been working well and is not far off racing."
Tom George Profile
Gloucestershire is home to some of the most successful jump trainers in England, with around one in 10 hurdlers and chasers trained in the county.
As well as accommodating the likes of Jonjo O'Neill and Nigel Twiston-Davies, it is home to Tom George who began his training career in 1993 with 14 horses from his base at Springbank Stables in Slad, near Stroud.
At the age of 26, he was one of the youngest jump trainers in the country but he had plenty of experience, having previously worked for Martin Pipe, Arthur Moore and Francois Doumen, three of the most successful trainers in England, Ireland and France respectively.
Tom George's local track is Cheltenham and he won there with Newton Point in his rookie season. In the 2003/2004 season he sent out 50 winners for the first time from 65 horses. Last season he trained 46 winners, amassing his highest prize-money total of just under half a million pounds.
A surge for the Tom George yard came when Galileo won the Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle in March, 2002, under Jason Maguire, providing the trainer with his first success at The Festival. The horse was racing for only the second time over hurdles, having been bought off the Flat in Poland.
Other recent successes include nine-times winner Tremallt, dual Grade Two winner Historic plus many others. The most exciting horse in the yard is currently Lord of Illusion, one of the most improved novice chasers of last season, and a prospect for top staying chases.
George has saddled a few runners on the Flat and Polish-bred Tulipa gave him a winner at Newmarket in May. This jump season, from 79 runners so far, he has already gained 10 winners.
Tom said: "This is a transition period - the summer horses are finished and many of the winter horses will be ready to run in a couple of weeks.
"We won 10 races over the summer so we are not doing too badly but there are plenty of horses cornered by the handicapper.
"I am delighted with my young horses and hope that my progressive chasers can capture some big winter prizes."