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Slad trainer is making his mark in France

19-April-2023 14:59
in General
by Peter McNeile

During the 1980s, there was a catchy advertisement on TV for Hanson, at that juncture one of the first sponsors of the Derby at Epsom. The advert sadly had nothing to do with Epsom, but described Hanson as a British firm "doing rather well over there", referring to the huge market that is the USA. 

This description fits equally well for Slad-based trainer Tom George, whose wife, Sophie (sadly now separated), acts as judge for the Annual Andoversford Point-to-Point fixture. George has been a fixture of the British racing scene for 30 years, gracing our top graded races with horses like Summerville Boy (Supreme Novices, Relkeel Hurdle), The World's End (Long Walk Hurdle), Black Op (Mersey Hurdle) and God's Own (Melling Chase, Punchestown Champion Chase). 

But this year, Tom George - trained runners have been conspicuous by the infrequency. His 131 runners is less than half what one might expect at this stage of the season, with just 10 days to its conclusion. So what's amiss?

In December 2021, the courts found in favour of tattersalls in a suit against Tom's business and bloodstock agent Alex Elliott over the disputed purchase of Lariat at the 2019 November Horses in Training sale in Newmarket. Elliott signed for the then three-year-old colt out of Andrew Balding's yard on instruction from George but subsequent veterinary tests carried out in the immediate wake of the sale pointed to breathing issues.

The case surrounded the terms of Tattersalls' conditions of sale and the ruling set both defendants back just shy of £100k. Given the margins in training, this required a re-set, occuring at just the time when there was considerable unrest among professional trainers as to the returns from racing in the UK compared to other neighbouring jurisdictions.  

The result has been nothing short of a remarkable re-positioning of the business to straddle both the UK and French markets, and with son Noel now fully licensed to operate in France, Tom George Racing is effectively an international training business. Horses move from Slad to Chantilly and occasionally in the other direction, but the French and British operations could both stand more than adequately on their own two feet. 

This is a pivotal time in the French jumps calendar, mid-way through the Spring season at Auteuil which culminates in the Grand Steeplechase de Paris in early June. The prizes at Auteuil outstrip anything available in the provinces by a country mile. Compare these figures between the two jurisdictions:










Prize money (win & place)



Those earnings would have George well into the top 30 trainers in the UK, comparable to Emma Lavalle, Evan Williams or Richard Newland who have fielded between 230 and 375 runners each. 

Even yesterday, juvenile hurdler Jachar picked up €25,300 for owner Richard Kelvin Hughes for winning a shoulder race on what might best be described as an ordinary day at Auteuil. 

The government regales us regularly with talk of low productivity in this country. And many trainers might tacitly agree that they are busy fools, acknowledging there is little money in training horses. There is much to admire in the way Tom has used his knowledge of the market to support some of his more adventurous owners and get them a better return on their investment.

Does a winner at a deserted Auteuil beat leading in a Festival winner. Perhaps not, but the business is stronger for its change, and variety is the spice of life. Where George is to be seen sporting a Peaky Blinders cap over here, a beret suits as well in la belle France.

Allez les Bleues!

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