Focus: Spotlight on Historic - Horror story could have happy ending in Long Walk.
WHATEVER he does on a racecourse, it is fair to say that Historic has already won his biggest battle. A secret, stomach-churning story lies behind Historic's graduation from well-bred maiden on the Flat to a horse good enough to take on Baracouda in today's Cantor Sport Long Walk Hurdle, and indeed be regarded as a live candidate for the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
But do not read on unless you have eaten your breakfast. Historic reacted badly to being gelded not long after joining Tom George's yard last year. George describes what happened to him as a "one in 5,000" incident-and for that we have to be grateful.
Historic was found one evening in his stable in considerable pain, with ten feet of his intestine hanging out of the area of his body formerly occupied by his testicles.
"We weren't able just to push the intestine back in because obviously he had been rolling around in great pain and there was a lot of straw and stuff stuck to it," George says. "My staff rang the vet and he said the only thing that could be done was to get him in a lorry to the surgery.
"We had to tie a sheet around him to keep the intestines from hanging out. Fortunately, he decided to stand up on his way to the vet, which was extremely important. The vet did an amazing job to save him and it's fair to say he's lucky to be alive."
Unsurprisingly, Historic's initial work for George after recovering from the ordeal was not encouraging. But the Gloucestershire trainer had seen enough in a debut third over hurdles at Warwick to believe he had a talented, as well as tough, horse in his care. That was confirmed by another third next time out to Gola Cher at Sandown.
Then came the tactical switch that has been the making of the son of Sadler's Wells, who has, according to George, a head in the absolute image of his sire. Realising that Historic had power not pace as a major attribute, George told Carl Llewellyn to make the running next time out at Ascot in a valuable novice hurdle. He ran his rivals ragged, including former conqueror Gola Cher.
"The stronger the pace the better it is for him," George says. "That is why Cheltenham should suit him. He doesn't necessarily have to make the running; in fact, I would quite like to see him given a lead."
Historic has confirmed the promise of his novice season, most recently when defeating Spendid and First Gold in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Having previously worked for First Gold's trainer Francois Doumen, George particularly enjoyed that victory. "I still talk to Francois regularly and he is a family friend, but it is always nice to beat him," George says. "I'm not sure he took the defeat particularly well, but I'm not sure Frenchmen take defeat that well anyway!"
George, of course, has a second chance to find out today, although he accepts that it will prove "very difficult" to beat Baracouda. "On paper, he does look impossible to beat. But it is disappointing that a race like this has attracted so few runners," he says.
Doumen is not the only top trainer with whom George, whose 40-strong string this season is his largest ever, learned his craft. Arthur Moore and Martin Pipe are others he has worked for.
"Francois likes to do things differently," George adds. "He might exercise his horses for two hours in a morning, whereas here it is more like 20 minutes.
"Obviously, I learned a lot from all the trainers I worked for, but I would say the one I am most like is Arthur Moore. I am more in the traditional mould.
"I was in Ireland this week looking at horses and somebody asked me whether I was a `trainer or a fitness instructor'.
"I said I would like to think I was a trainer!
"But what he said was a very true comment."