The pair claimed third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March with Module but in God’s Own, who is officially still a novice, they could have an even better prospect on their hands.
God’s Own struck Grade One gold at Punchestown in May, beating Tingle Creek favourite Balder Succes in the process, but as that win came after the end of the British season, the six-year-old still retains his novice status.
That means he could run in the Arkle in March if connections so wish, and he was also eligible for the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase today, but George and Brennan feel they may as well take on the big boys, especially with so much prize money and prestige on offer.
He beat Balder Succes on his return at Exeter last month and while God’s Own is 7lb worse off this time, George believes he is worth his place in the line up.
“We have the novice option this year but the way things have panned out, I think we’ve got to go for it while we can,” said the Slad handler.
“It’s going to be tough but we’re very happy with him.
“Two months before Punchestown he was two lengths behind Balder Succes and I knew he was nowhere near his best and since then he’s won at Punchestown and won a Haldon Gold Cup.
“The Grade One novice chase is worth £40,000 and the Tingle Creek is worth £150,000. If you have a horse of that calibre you should take every opportunity.
“He has a tendency of jumping just slightly to his right at the races, he doesn’t do it at home. We will go left one day but I’d rather try that in a lesser contest.”
Brennan feels that even though God’s Own is still technically a novice, he has plenty of experience.
He said: “Everyone will slightly fancy their chances but God’s Own is a very nice horse to deal with and we’re looking forward to a great race.
“Because he prefers going right, the Haldon Gold Cup was going to tell us a lot and he was very impressive that day.
“He’s a very exciting horse, whatever happens in this.
“He’s been around Punchestown and Kempton so he has plenty of experience.”
Alan King expects Balder Succes to strip fitter for his run behind God’s Own at Exeter, with the Tingle Creek having been his main target in the first half of the season.
Richard Johnson takes the mount this time as both of King’s stable jockeys, Robert Thornton and Wayne Hutchinson, are on the sidelines.
Writing in his blog for Queen Mother Champion Chase sponsors Betway, King said: “Everything is good with Balder Succes ahead of his run in tomorrow’s Tingle Creek at Sandown, which has been his target for some time.
“He has been working really well on the grass since his reappearance run in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter and will strip much fitter and sharper now.
“Our horses usually improve for that first run and he’ll take his chance in what looks an open race. There may be no Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, but there are still nine others including God’s Own.
“The only thing is we are without his regular jockey and we’ve booked Richard Johnson to ride.
“It’s difficult to make plans for the season until we get tomorrow out of the way, but we plan to stick down the two-mile route and hopefully all roads will lead to the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
“That’s certainly the target if he’s as good as we hope he might be and we know he’ll stay further too.
“In terms of where we might go after Sandown, I suppose the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton and then the Game Spirit at Newbury are obvious stepping stones, but let’s just take each race at a time for now.”
The horse for money through the week has been Harry Fry’s five-year-old Vukovar.
Relatively unexposed since coming from France, he appeared not to stay two miles and five furlongs at the Festival and connections are keen to see if they should head down the two-mile route this season
“We did have the Peterborough Chase at Huntingson on Sunday in mind to start him off this year but with no Sprinter Sacre or Sire De Grugy, we thought it was worth having a go at this,” said Fry.
“We want to know if we have a top class two-miler on our hands and this should tell us where we are going for the rest of the season. If he runs well the races are pretty obvious, but if he runs like he needs to go back up in trip so be it.
“With the doubt about the big two for the rest of the season, there could be an opening in the two-mile races. That’s our plan, anyway.”
Mick Channon is delighted with the shape Somersby is in and feels he deserves to win a big prize after his sound run behind Al Ferof.
“I hope the ground is a bit better at Sandown than it was at Ascot as that probably just caught him out,” said Channon.
“I’m very pleased with him. He needed his first run in the Haldon Gold Cup but this is his trip and he’s run plenty of good races at Sandown.
“He’d gone over the top by the time of Punchestown last season, but other than that he always runs his race.
“I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Colin Tizzard is aware Third Intention needs to improve but feels it is worth taking a chance after he won so well over two miles at Haydock on his first run at the trip for nearly two years.
“We thought it was worth a go as when we dropped him to two miles up at Haydock he slammed them and that was his first run over the trip for a long time,” said Tizzard.