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Racing: George's stable star taken for Ascot success

IT is not all thoroughbreds who take to National Hunt racing but trainer Tom George hopes Lordof-thehouse can continue his new found liking for jumping over obstacles when he lines up for the Introductory Hurdle at Ascot today.

The four-year-old is a half-brother to Group 1 pair George Washington and Grandera, and has shown signs of temperament in the past, refusing to race on his last two outings on the Flat when trained by William Haggas.

He was reluctant at the start for his jumps debut at Wetherby three weeks ago and was tailed off but finally condescended to race and went on to win by five lengths from Falcarragh on his first run for George.

Since then the Gloucestershire trainer has been working on methods to get Lordofthehouse to enjoy his new career. He said: "He's had a couple of trips away from home since he last ran. He's had a few issues, but he is starting to enjoy himself and is loving the jumping."

"We took him to a park for a morning away and he had a canter round and came back happy. We've also taken him to a racecourse where he jumped a couple of hurdles and loved it.

"I'm hoping that now it's registered in his mind that a day out jumping is fun, he will be okay. He is a very talented horse, his brother was George Washington, and now he seems to be enjoying his jumping and going away from home. He loves jumping now and that seems to be the key to it. When he goes to the races he associates it with jumping rather than with it being hard work."

A field of six also includes Fair Trade, who was 10th in the 2000 Guineas two years ago won by Makfi. Formerly with David Elsworth and Hughie Morrison, he makes his jumping introduction for the Alan King stable.

"Fair Trade looks a really interesting recruit having been considered good enough to run in the 2000 Guineas on the Flat," said King. "He lost his way this summer but is full of enthusiasm again having arrived at Barbury Castle."

Another interesting contender is the Queen's Close Touch, who won over hurdles for Nicky Henderson at Fakenham last month.

Finally, connections of Mount Athos hope the five-year-old can capitalise on a good draw in Sunday's Japan Cup to make amends for an unlucky run in the Melbourne Cup.

The Luca Cumani-trained gelding has been handed stall 5 in the Group 1 at Tokyo, as he drops back to a mile and a half following his fifth place in two-mile showpiece in Flemington.

"The draw is very good news," said the horse's owner Dr Marwan Koukash. "I was a bit disappointed we didn't win the Melbourne Cup, but when you look at the race you have to consider him the unluckiest loser that day."

* The meeting scheduled for Huntingdon tomorrow has been abandoned because parts of the track are under water. Officials at the Cambridgeshire circuit took a quick look yestertday afternoon and knew right away that the situation was hopeless.

More rain is forecast, and Sulekha Varma, the clerk of the course, said: "We just left it a few hours to see if the water was going to go up or down because it can recede quite quickly, but it is most definitely going up and there is more rain to come.

"Unfortunately, we won't be in a position to race on Saturday. It's not just the track, it's the facilities. The stables are completely flooded and they have to dry out, so we have a big clean-up job on our hands."

Elsewhere, the soft ground at Market Rasen yesterday was just perfect for Westlin' Winds, who got off the mark for trainer Barry Leavy with a determined effort in the opening claiming hurdle. The six-year-old finished fourth in a beginners' chase at Uttoxeter on his first start for Leavy and was a 7-4 chance dropped in class back over smaller obstacles.

With the 5-4 favourite Red Jade failing to fire, Tony McCoy and Xenophon emerged the biggest threat to Westlin' Winds in the straight, but Jason Maguire's amount was always doing enough to win by a length and threequarters.

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