God's Own Image reproduced with the kind permission of Sandown Park Racecourse

God’s Own
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Sandown Park Racecourse

Tom George is giving much of his string, including stable stars God’s Own and Sir Valentino, mid-winter breaks in preparation for a spring campaign.

God’s Own could take in the three festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown for the second year running after winding up 2016 with a close third behind Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.

After finishing fourth to Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last season, God’s Own went on to win Aintree’s Melling Chase and Punchestown’s Champion Chase.

“He’s on his winter break at the moment. I’ve got a lot of horses I’m giving a break to. Some might have a run, but this is the month to give him a quiet time,” said George.

“He was only beaten just over a length by Un De Sceaux, on ground that was softer than ideal.

“We had a good spring with him last year when we got three races into him, so he’ll have his little break and then we’ll start building him back up again shortly.

“Going to those three festivals worked well for him last year, so that’s probably what we’ll do again.

“He has the Champion Chase and the Ryanair as his options at Cheltenham. We keep on going slightly back to two miles, even though we think he’ll get further, but he seems to be quite good at the two miles.

“He’s actually a stayer and it’s probably that these fast-run two miles bring his stamina into play.”

The Champion Chase could be Sir Valentino’s Cheltenham target after he continued his progression by running Special Tiara to half a length in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton, despite giving Henry de Bromhead’s Irish raider 6lb.

“We were giving Special Tiara 6lb so he couldn’t have run any better,” said the Slad trainer.

“He seems to be improving. There’s no rhyme or reason behind it, but he can’t not be. He’s run off a mark of 157 and only been beaten half a length giving that weight.

“I would say that probably puts him in the 160s now. We have to be pleased about it – he’s running proper races.

“We’re giving him a small break. We’ll have him back for the spring and we’ll have to think about the Champion Chase for him. There’s no reason not to.”