Tom George is plotting a transition to novice chasing for two of his stable stars.
Black Op, winner of the 2018 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, first set out on a chasing campaign last season, but reverted back to the smaller obstacles after just two beaten efforts.
The eight-year-old finished a creditable third on his debut over fences at Exeter and followed that up with another third-placed finish in the Grade Two Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
He then spent the rest of the season tackling hurdles, finishing third and fourth in the Cleeve and Select Hurdles respectively – in addition to a 12th-place finish in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival.
George now intends to revisit his original plan, confirming that Black Op will return to run over fences this autumn.
“He’s good, he’s in form,” George said.
“He’s been schooling well and he’s not far off a run. There’s a strong possibility he’ll run at (owner) Roger Brookhouse’s local course, which is Stratford, in a two-and-a-half-mile novice chase.
“He’ll definitely be going over fences,” he added.
“Things went against him a bit last year – the ground was too firm and we couldn’t really get him out. So we’re starting from scratch again this season and we’ll find a low-key race.
“He’s been schooling with Henrietta Knight and everyone is very pleased with him.”
Brookhouse is a key owner for George, with 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Summerville Boy also in his care.
The seven-year-old has not registered a victory since that Cheltenham performance, struggling in a handful of Graded races last year.
His season ended at Punchestown, where he was sixth behind Nicky Henderson’s Buveur d’Air in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
“Everything went wrong last season really,” said the Slad-based trainer.
“He was only beaten six lengths by Buveur D’Air at Punchestown, though.
“He’s been schooling over fences and will go novice chasing.
“He’s near enough ready, he’s always jumped a fence better than he jumps a hurdle because he’s got more respect for them. He’ll go for a two-mile novice chase.”