No Samcro, no problem - Black Op downs brave Lostintranslation in thriller
Tom George could justifiably lay claim to training the two best novice hurdlers in Britain after Black Op joined Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Summerville Boy in the Grade 1 winners' bracket.
Paying a handsome compliment to Samcro, the Irish superstar who defeated him in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, Black Op wore down Lostintranslation to claim the Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle.
Black Op held a narrow lead at the second-last, only to cede his advantage to Lostintranslation with a blunder at the final flight.
Undaunted, he really stuck his neck out to rally and battle back, securing a half-length victory in the same Roger Brookhouse colours as Summerville Boy.
His jockey Noel Fehily said: "I was in front far sooner than I wanted to be and he was really tough on the run-in to battle back.
"His run at Cheltenham was fantastic against Samcro. We all know what a great horse Samcro is and he ran a great race to finish second to him. He deserved to win a big one."
George said: "I thought he could pull something out of the bag today because he had been working well at home and come out of Cheltenham as well as a horse could do having had a hard race behind Samcro.
"Noel got the tactics spot on. He said his biggest worry was not going a gallop so he kicked on three out. He made a few mistakes and has given the other horse a bit of a chance but when push came to shove he really did battle hard.
"He's a beautiful horse – a staying chaser in the making. We'll have a chat with Roger Brookhouse about whether to go chasing next season but that's what our plan will be."
On a break
George said Summerville Boy was on a break and likely to stay hurdling for another season.
"He has put on 20-30kg and will strengthen up over the summer," he said. "I'd say more than likely he'll stay over hurdles. He's a faster horse than Black Op and still quite immature."
Colin Tizzard had high hopes this week for Lostintranslation – eighth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle last month – in a race he won 12 months ago with Finian's Oscar and his optimism was not misplaced.
"I thought coming into this week that he was our best chance," he said. "He was staying on at Cheltenham, and that was the best form. He made a bad mistake there too, otherwise he could have been third or fourth.
"He's got better and is a gorgeous horse. He's beautiful looking. They were clear of the third and the trip was fine. He'll be chasing next season for sure.
"This is his first season racing – he won one point-to-point last season and wasn't ready to go in a bumper so we turned him out."
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