Tom George

Tom George Tom George started training in 1993 and, in two-and-a-half decades since, has saddled over 700 winners and transformed his traditional, family home at Down Farm in Slad, near Stroud, Gloucestershire into an up-to-the-minute training establishment. By his own admission, George prefers a patient approach, with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity. His philosophy appears to be paying dividends because, in 2016/17, he enjoyed his most successful season ever, financially, surpassing £1 million in prize money for the first time and, in 2017/18, fell only just short of that mark.

Indeed, of the ten Grade One winners that George has saddled during his 25-year career, three of them came in 2017/18. Of course, two of those wins were provided by the same horse, Summerville Boy, who beat Kalashnikov in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, before confirming the form in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle to give George only his second winner at the Cheltenham Festival.

George deliberately avoided a clash between Summerville Boy and his other highly promising novice hurdler, Black Op, who also runs in the colours of high-profile owner Roger Brookhouse. Consequently, Black Op ran in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, rather than the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and finished a highly creditable second, beaten just 2¾ lengths, behind odds-on favourite Samcro.

Black Op was, in fact, attempting to follow in the footsteps of the only previous Cheltenham Festival winner for the yard, Galileo, who won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – at the time, run as the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle – in 2002. Galileo, a Polish-bred gelding – not to be confused with the 2001 Derby winner of the same name – failed to progress after promising start to his racing career but, with two Grade One-winning novice hurdlers in his yard, along with plenty more ammunition, it’s probably safe to say that George will be enjoying further success at the Festival before long.

Rooster Booster

Rooster Booster Owned by Terry Warner, trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson, was a popular grey, who won the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002, but is probably best remembered for his impressive, 11-length victory in the Champion Hurdle in 2003.

Originally in the charge of Dorset permit holder Richard Mitchell, Rooster Booster won a maiden hurdle at Taunton on his third start over obstacles in January, 2000. He was subsequently sold to Terry Warner for £60,000 and transferred to Philip Hobbs but, despite a series of valiant placed efforts – including in top handicaps, such as the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury and the Sunderlands Imperial Cup at Sandown – he failed to add to his winning tally on his first 14 starts for his new trainer.

Despite being an eight-year-old with just a single win to his name, and making his first appearance at the Cheltenham Festival, Rooster Booster was sent off 8/1 third favourite for the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle in 2002. Held up early, he made good headway with half a mile to run and, having taken a slight lead at the final flight, was ridden out to beat The Gatherer by 1¼ lengths.

Rooster Booster was subsequently beaten, but far from disgraced, when fourth of 14, beaten 4½ lengths, behind Coral Cup winner Ilnamar in the Martell Aintree Hurdle on his final start of the season. However, over the winter Rooster Booster underwent what can only be described as an ‘epiphany’ because, as a nine-year-old, he won his first four starts of the 2002/03 season, including the Grade Two Victor Chandler Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Consequently, on March 3, 2000, Rooster Booster lined up as 9/2 second favourite – in a field that included reigning champion Hors La Loi III, and the likes of Rhinestone Cowboy and Intersky Falcon – but market confidence was not misplaced. In fact, far from it; he quickened clear approaching the last and sauntered up the run-in, easily brushing aside his nearest pursuer, Westender, to record the defining performance of his career.

Henry de Bromhead

Henry de Bromhead Henry de Bromhead has been training at Knockeen, Co. Waterford since the retirement of his father, Harry, in 1999. In the intervening two decades, he has steadily developed his yard into one of the foremost training operations in Ireland, albeit on a more modest scale than, say, Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott. De Bromhead has built a reputation as an astute and adept trainer and, while he has yet to saddle more than three winners in National Hunt season on this side of the Irish Sea, he has comparatively few runners on British soil.

De Bromhead has saddled four winners at the Cheltenham Festival, starting with Sizing Europe, owned by the late Alan Potts and ridden by Andrew Lynch, in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2010. The following season, another horse carrying the familiar red, green and yellow Potts’ colours, Sizing Australia stayed on gamely to win the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase on the Cross Country Course and, a day later, Sizing Europe completed a notable double for the yard when winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Having been beaten on all four starts since winning the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Sizing Europe was sent off 10/1 fifth choice of the eleven runners behind previous dual winner Master Minded at 2/1 favourite. Master Minded was still four lengths behind Sizing Europe when an almighty blunder at the third last fence finally put paid to his chances and the latter stayed on strongly to go clear in the closing stages and beat Big Zeb by 5 lengths. A quizzical de Bromhead said afterwards, ‘It’s just phenomenal. I couldn’t believe it.’

Six years later, de Bromhead was equally incredulous, if not more so, when Special Tiara, owned by Sally Rowland-Williams and ridden by Noel Fehily, took advantage of a major shock to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase again. Despite starting at prohibitive odds of 2/9, favourite Douvan was never jumping with any fluency and was outpaced in the closing stages, eventually trailing in seventh of the ten runners, beaten 11¾ lengths. Special Tiara, running in the race for the fourth time, led the field a merry dance from the fifth fence and, although tackled by eventual runner-up Fox Norton close home, held on gamely to win by a head, all out, at odds of 11/1. De Bromhead aid, ‘…it was hard to believe we could win with Douvan and everything else – Douvan had looked so good.’