Tom George has confirmed Black Op will head back to Cheltenham for the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle after finishing third in the Cleeve Hurdle on Saturday.
Runner-up to Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival 12 months ago, the Grade One novice winner reverted to the smaller obstacles after two runs over fences and recorded a solid third place behind the smart Paisley Park.
“He’s come out of it very well. It was quite a hard race for him,” George said.
“He hasn’t had a proper race since last April. Three-mile races are as a hard a race as you can get. It probably found him out a little bit and he got a bit tired.
“That would put him right and we’ve got six weeks or so to get him right for March. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
George’s Cheltenham team is likely to include God’s Own and The Worlds End.
“God’s Own is having his mid-season break. He enforces it every year,” the Slad handler told Racing TV.
“It’s now time to build him up towards Cheltenham and all the spring festivals. The old boy is in great form.
“The Worlds End is in great form. Normally at this time of year it’s bottomless ground and we thought we’d keep him going until Christmas time, but this year we could have kept him going.
“He’s had a nice break and it’s time to build up his work again and he’ll be heading to Cheltenham next.”
God’s Own was third to Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last year, while The Worlds End is a possible for the RSA Chase after wins over fences at Cheltenham and Chepstow.