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Summerville back to optimum trip as he defends Relkeel crown

Tom George believes the re-scheduled Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton is the perfect race for Summerville Boy.

The 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has been right back to his best so far this campaign, winning a decent event over two and a half miles at Aintree first time out.

He then stepped up to three miles when fourth to Thyme Hill and Paisley Park at Newbury, and showed his versatility with a fine run over two miles in the International Hurdle behind Song For Someone.

Summerville Boy won Saturday’s race last year, at its usual home of Cheltenham.

George said: “Summerville Boy is probably running over his optimum trip of two and a half miles.

“He’s very close to the best over three miles and very close to the best over two mile, but this is probably his optimum.

“He’s been running really consistently in some good races, and it’s nice to get him back over two and a half.”

McFabulous is likely to go off favourite for Paul Nicholls.

Impressive in the Persian War on his return, his last chance to run in novice company, he travelled extremely well before apparently failing to see out three miles at Newbury when just in front of Summerville Boy.

Kempton Park Races
McFabulous was an easy winner of the EBF Final last season (David Davies/PA)
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“Switching this race to Kempton from Cheltenham’s abandoned card on New Year’s Day is a big plus for McFabulous,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I was a bit nervous about him on deep ground at Cheltenham, and he will be much happier on better ground at Kempton – where he was so impressive over this distance in the EBF Final just before lockdown.

“He ran very well when third to Thyme Hill and Paisley Park at Newbury, and this trip looks perfect for him.”

Kim Bailey’s Younevercall is 10 but does not have many miles on the clock, and ran a career best last time time out in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

He was still in front jumping the last, and Bailey believes coming back in trip may also suit him.

“We obviously had to redraw our plans,” said the Cotswolds trainer.

“He wants to go right-handed – and if this race had taken place at Cheltenham then he wouldn’t be running.

“He’s there – my only concern would be if this race is coming quick enough after Ascot, but as he’s 10 years old now, we’ll have to see.

“I’ve no problem dropping him down in trip – his run before the Long Walk was over similar, and he only just got beat.”

Olly Murphy had hoped to send Thomas Darby to Ireland over Christmas for the three-mile Grade One at Leopardstown, but the travel ban put paid to that.

Thomas Darby had a short-lived novice chase career
Thomas Darby had a short-lived novice chase career (Mike Egerton/PA)

“This race is very much an afterthought, but he’s in very good form,” said Murphy.

“I’d have loved to have gone over three miles with him him – but there’s not a lot for him at the moment, so this looked the obvious race.

“He’s in good form, and I’m looking forward to running him, and he’s got an each-way chance.”

Paul Webber’s Cheltenham Festival winner Indefatigable is the only mare in the field and was third on her return at this track in a Listed race.

“She’s absolutely fine,” said Webber.

Paul Webber (right) celebrates Indefatigable winning at Cheltenham
Paul Webber (far right) celebrates Indefatigable winning at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

“I think they went no gallop in the Listed race – it was a very clever ride by David Bass from the front (on Bannixtown Glory), and I think they just did her for a bit of toe really.

“But she seems in very good form. There aren’t many options at the moment, with the weather as it is.

“She’s still well and needs a run, so we thought this was the only possible place, and she should have her chance.

“I don’t think it was necessarily the (three-mile) trip (that beat her), and this should suit her nicely tomorrow – hot race though it is.

“She’s won Listed races, and there aren’t many Grade Threes, so she’s got to have a crack at a Grade Two.

“Her 7lb weight allowance brings her right there on the ratings. On ratings, she’s right in there.”

Nicky Henderson’s duo of Call Me Lord and On The Blind Side complete the field.

Summerville may head to Newbury

The Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle could be next on the agenda for recent Aintree winner Summerville Boy.

Tom George’s 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner kicked off last season over fences, before reverting to the smaller obstacles to win the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

The eight-year-old subsequently chased home Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle before finishing fifth in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival in March.

He made a successful reappearance in a two-and-a-half-mile conditions race at Aintree this month, and George is keen to give his charge another tilt at three miles – with a potential rematch with Paisley Park at Newbury on the cards.

“There is a strong possibility he might run in the Long Distance Hurdle,” said the Cotswolds trainer.

“He had a good comeback at Aintree a couple of weeks ago. It is at the back of our minds he didn’t see the three miles out in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival, but he was only beaten six lengths.

“He was ridden very prominently in the Stayers’ Hurdle, and we tried to go with Apple’s Jade, but his stamina just ran out at the end.

“We have a few other things we can do with him. He has come on enormously since Aintree the other day.”