Tom George: no fluke about Kempton second for Gold Cup hope Double Shuffle
Bookmakers may be discounting Double Shuffle’s chance in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup but trainer Tom George on Thursday made it crystal clear there was no fluke about the eight-year-old’s close second to big race favourite Might Bite over Christmas and believes he will be even better suited to the demands of a Gold Cup.
Widely available at 40-1, ten times the best price on offer about Might Bite, Double Shuffle heads into Gold Cup battle a fresh horse having been rested since his Boxing Day second in the King George VI Chase, where he closed to within a length of the favourite.
“He’s up against it, no question about it but on the other side of it there was no fluke about his run in the King George,” said George.
“He was always in the first three and wasn’t picking up the pieces at the end, so there was nothing in the world to say that wasn’t him."
He added: “He’s probably improved physically and mentally, and the other thing is he’s a true stayer, which is going to be to his advantage. He actually ran at Cheltenham as a five-year-old when he was very immature and finished in front of Might Bite then.
"The hood has made a difference and you can ride him positively with that on. He was staying on in the King George and I think he’ll like Cheltenham as much as anyone. He likes better ground too and we’ll give it our best go.”
“Summerville Boy is in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and no decision has been made yet,” he said.
“He definitely goes there and would stay the longer trip but equally has the speed for two miles, so we might as well see what the ground is like and who is turning up.
“The Tolworth form is working out very well and that was on heavy ground he didn’t particularly like either.”
Black Op also has options, with entries in the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, with the only thing clear at this stage that he and Summerville Boy will not be contesting the same race.
He added: “We’ll wait and see with him too but he appreciates better ground and is a strong-travelling horse. His form looks solid.”
Also on the team sheet is triple Grade 1 winner God’s Own, who will bid to make it third time lucky in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.
“He’s had a stop-start campaign but ran well behind Waiting Patiently at Kempton last time and that will have blown the cobwebs away,” said George.
“Last year could easily have been his year but he made two horrendous mistakes that cost him the race. He’s ten but not lacking the enthusiasm and his record speaks for itself in these Grade 1s.”
Another Grade 1 winner, The Worlds End, is heading to the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle and George said: “He's been struggling in the ground all winter but has improved with each run and, on good to soft ground, you will see improvement again.”
The trainer’s first and only winner at the festival remains Galileo in what is now the Ballymore in 2002, although there have been some near misses since, including Singlefarmpayment losing the Ultima Handicap Chase by a short-head last year.
George confirmed he is on course for the same race, while stablemate Wild West Wind is bound for the Kim Muir.
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