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Cheltenham favourite Black Op set to make chasing bow at Exeter

Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Black Op will face nine rivals when he makes his eagerly anticipated chasing debut under Noel Fehily in a beginners' chase at Exeter on Wednesday.

The Tom George-trained star excelled over hurdles last season, wining on two of his five starts including a first success at the highest level when staying on gamely to win the Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree in April.

"It’s a good starting point for him," George said on Tuesday. "There’s not really many other races he could’ve run in but I do think he’ll be suited by Exeter, it’s a lovely galloping track.

"He schooled well over fences at the back end of last season on the grass before he went out to fields.

"We haven't been able to do much schooling on grass since he’s come back in because the ground was just too hard but he did school a couple of mornings ago with Noel Fehily and jumped really nicely."

Currently a best-priced 10-1 favourite for the JLT Novices' Chase at next year's Cheltenham Festival, Black Op will head straight over fences this season unlike his conqueror in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in March, Samcro.

George said: "He’s a big horse with size and scope, he’s always looked like he was going to make more of a chaser than a hurdler. He was a Grade 1 winner for us last season over hurdles and hopefully he can match that this season, anything on top of that would be a bonus."

George added: "We’re not looking beyond tomorrow at the moment. Hopefully we get a good run out of him and we can see where we are after that."

Connections will be hoping that Black Op can defy the recent trend of short-priced favourites being turned over in the RGB Building Supplies Beginners' Chase.

Last year the Alan King-trained Yanworth was sent off a 2-9 favourite before falling at the seventh fence, while the Paul Nicholls-trained Aux Ptits Soins was touched off at 2-7 in 2016.

Rivals for Black Op tomorrow include the race-fit Phillip Hobbs-trained I'm A Game Changer as well as an intriguing newcomer in the shape of the JP McManus-owned Sully D'Oc Aa for trainer Anthony Honeyball.

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