Tom George is looking forward to unleashing Grade One-winning hurdler Black Op over fences in the RGB Building Supplies Beginners’ Chase at Exeter on Wednesday.
The seven-year-old, who is the general 8-1 favourite for next year’s JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, will face nine rivals in the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest.
After finishing second in the Ballymore at Cheltenham in March, the Roger Brookhouse-owned gelding went one better on his final start last season by claiming victory at the top level in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.
George said: “He is great and is ready to go. He schooled on grass on Monday, and Noel Fehily came in to ride him, and he jumped well.
“There is a long winter ahead of us, but it is a good place to start off. He has had a clean run since he has come in.
“He is the same as he always was in that he is a very laid-back horse, but he wakes up at the races when he needs to.
“Two and a half is probably his ideal trip, but this is a good starting point. It is a good track to start them on, and we will see where we are with him after that.”
Lining up in opposition once again will be the Ben Pauling-trained Kildisart, who finished down the field when the pair last met at the Merseyside track in April.
Pauling said: “It’s a hell of race to start off in. It took him a run to get fit last year, and he might just need it again.
“The ground is fine, so we have decided to let him take his chance – and he is certainly a novice chaser we are looking forward to seeing. He has been brilliant schooling.
“He didn’t turn up at Aintree on his final start, it was just a case of one run too many, so a line can be put through that.”