Tom George hopes Black Op can vindicate his decision to swerve the Cheltenham Festival by proving himself in next month’s Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree.
The nine-year-old will return to the scene of his Grade One success in the 2018 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle as he bids to claim further top-level honours in the three-mile-one-furlong prize.
Since opening his account over fences at Stratford on his return, Black Op has filled the runner-up spot in two subsequent starts, most recently in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
George said: “We were thinking about Cheltenham, but he was a bit backward in his coat and he wasn’t quite there as we thought.
“We know he loves Aintree and that is the obvious place for him and he has won a Grade One there.
“The ground up there is normally better for him and Aintree will suit him better, so the plan is to go there.”
Although Black Op only has one win to his name this season, George is confident the best is yet to come.
He said: “He has been good this season and he was only beaten a length or so in the Kauto Star and he was only beaten half a length behind Champ (at Newbury).
“He is not the finished article yet. I think there is a big day in him before the season is out and hopefully it will be at Aintree.”
A trip to Aintree is also on the cards for The Worlds End, who will attempt to claim a second Grade One success of the season in the Ryanair Hurdle.
The nine-year-old will be on a retrieval mission having failed to back up his victory in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas when pulling up in last month’s Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.
George said: “We are planning on going to Aintree with him for the Ryanair Hurdle. He got a hurdle wrong at Haydock last time and was never travelling after it, so you just have to put a line through it.
“It was a bad day at the office and he seems fine now. He has won a Grade One at Aintree before, so it was the obvious call.”