Stroud trainer Tom George is hoping to go one better with classy chaser Bun Doran at this season’s Cheltenham Festival.
The eight-year-old gave his owners the Crossed Fingers Partnership a day to remember when finishing a gallant second in last season’s Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.
But George believes the imposing gelding now has a better chance of triumphing in the two-mile Grade 3 at his local track come March – a comment underpinned by his fine second in a valuable handicap chase at Newbury at the end of November.
“He’s progressing very well,” says George. “He’s now rated over 150 and Cheltenham seems to bring the best out of him so to head back there and try to give his owners another great day out is the obvious target.”
Bought for £76,000 at the Cheltenham Premier Sale in May 2015, the son of Shantou very quickly began to repay his price tag, first in a bumper and then in novice hurdles.
“He joined us from Ireland having won a point-to-point and went on to win a bumper for us over two miles at Chepstow later that year,” recalls the trainer.
“He progressed well into novice hurdles, winning at Newbury and won again at the second time of asking over fences at Newcastle three years ago. He was always a chaser in the making and since then he’s been steadily rising up the ladder.”
Bun Doran took his partnership, created by Nick Williams and Max Forbert, to the Cheltenham Festival in March 2017 where he finished a creditable sixth of 20 in the Listed Close Brothers Novices’ Chase.
But better was still to come. The following month he was third over the Melling fences in the Grade 3 Red Rum Handicap Chase at Aintree’s Grand National Meeting, and a return to Cheltenham last December proved fruitful with victory in another handicap chase en route to his gallant effort in the Grand Annual.
This season has started in promising fashion with that second over the extended two miles at Newbury, after which the handicapper raised him 6lb to a career-best 156.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 30, 2019
However, Bun Doran isn’t the only exciting chaser to carry the two-tone blue silks of the Crossed Fingers Partnership this season. George also has high hopes for their six-year-old gelding Doctor Dex.
“He’s another nice horse whose starting to get it together now. Like Bun Doran, he won a bumper for us, followed by a maiden and a novice hurdle, and looked very promising winning over fences at Ascot on his re-appearance this season.
“The Crossed Fingers Partnership have been very lucky owners and have had a lot of fun over the last few years. They’ve had the amazing God’s Own flying the flag with three Grade 1 wins and Double Shuffle who was second in a King George and its great to have some nice horses coming through behind them.
“Nick and Max understand what can go right and what can go wrong in this game,” he adds. “They’re happy just to let me get in with it and find them nice horses and train them accordingly. They are living proof that you don’t always have to buy really expensive horses to enjoy top level success.”