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Noel George treble highlights missed opportunities in France

25-September-2023 9:51
in General
by Peter McNeile

Further proof, were any needed, that Gloucestershire spawns horsemen of the highest calibre, came at Auteuil over the weekend, when Noel George, now training under his own name with partner Amanda Zetterholm at Chantilly, came within a whisper of a four-timer. Noel is of course, the elder son of Tom & Sophie George.

Tom has always been something of an innovator. He was the first trainer to introduce biomass heating to service his lads' accommodation and tack rooms; he was an early adopter of foreign-bred horses when imports from the Continent were a novelty. In fact, his first Festival winner was sourced from Poland and won the Royal & SunAlliance (Now Ballymore) Hurdle in 2002. They yard near Slad houses some 70 thoroughbreds, and has been a conveyor belt of the finest talent.

But nowadays, in a market where trainers are squeezed between cheap operators with low overheads and gargantuan operations with 150+ horses, the middle market trainers need to think creatively. Tom works in tandem with Noel to source and prepare chasers and hurdlers for the more lucrative French market, especially among the well-endowed races at Auteuil in the autumn and spring.

The George enterprise has already netted 26 winners in 2023, recouping €1,182,745 in earnings from just 125 runners. The corresponding trainers achieving these sorts of earnings in the UK market need to run something like double the volume of horses.

By Auteuil's standards, Saturday's card was smart but not at the level of November's Weekend d'Automne. Three Grade III races and a listed handicap made for plenty to whet the appetite of Jumps fans. Juvenile hurdler Master D'Oc set the ball rolling in a Grade III juvenile hurdle over 2m 2f, taking it up before the last and always holding the runner-up, Leon du Berlais. 

Next up was Gallipoli in the Prix Violon, a listed handicap chase. Always prominent or leading, he was certaianly not faultless for jockey James Reveley, but was always in control in the 2m 6f contest, winning by a handy 4l to clock up a double for Reveley. 

In the following claiming hurdle, Ligget's Hill was only a neck off what would have proved the George's most productive 90 minutes in their French enterprise. As it was, they had to wait a further 30 minutes before Goa Lil completed the hattrick in the Prix Compiegne, a Grade III hurdle, this time under Felix de Giles. 

Given that this Saturday haul of £151k was the equivalent of winning a £250,000 race in the UK, it remains bizarre that more British trainers aren't voting with their feet, and running more horses on the Continent. Those trainers doing so are earning more for a less stressful life.

Time for a re-set?

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