Kirby gazing at Doncaster success

Fresh from the biggest day of his career at Wetherby, Phil Kirby is eyeing more big-race glory with Stargazer in this weekend's Betfred November Handicap.

Phil Kirby
Phil Kirby

The Doncaster race traditionally brings the curtain down on the Flat season, and dual-purpose trainer Kirby will be going there on a high a week after his Saturday treble at Wetherby – which included a Grade Two win for Nautical Nitwit and a Listed success for Lady Buttons.

Formerly trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Stargazer ‘won’ a valuable race at Newcastle in March – only to lose it in the stewards’ room – but he has been quiet since because of an injury picked up in the Chester Cup.

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“I think he’s got more chance of winning the November Handicap than I did Nautical Nitwit winning on Saturday, put it that way!” said Kirby.


“It looks a sensible race for him.

“I’d imagine he’ll go, because he’s had an easy season, but he’ll have a piece of work tomorrow.

“He got injured in the Chester Cup, which meant he missed most of the season.

“I then had to run him back sooner than ideal because of the new conditions of the Cesarewitch, which had been his target.

“That probably came too soon and on ground too fast over a trip too far, so we’ve forgotten about that.

“We’re always looking for something else before the end of the season, and this was the obvious race. The trip and ground will suit.”

Stargazer is one of 40 entries for the November Handicap –with Eve Johnson Houghton’s What About Carlo and John Gosden’s Royal Line, beaten favourite last year, set to be at the head of the weights.

Tom George has praised the medical staff who helped Double Shuffle make a speedy recovery after a scare following his first-fence fall at Wetherby.

Last season’s King George runner-up took a tumble for the first time in his career in the Charlie Hall Chase, and went from being slightly lame to giving connections real cause for concern.

Double Shuffle was taken to a local equine hospital, where he spent the night, and was soon back on his feet again and is completing his recuperation at George’s yard in Gloucestershire.

“We had a bit of a scare with him. He came off the course slightly lame and he deteriorated in the racecourse stables and he then went downhill and was of obvious concern,” said George.

“He was taken to the Rainbow Equine Hospital in Malton. They were absolutely top-class to get the job done as quick as they did.

“He had all the X-rays and then he started improving and in a matter of hours he was walking again. It transpired he had hit the nerves in his shoulder and had the equivalent of what we know as a dead leg.

“He spent the night at the vets and is now back home and he trotted out fine this morning (Monday), so it was a scare which at this stage has had a good outcome.”

George reports God’s Own to be in tip-top shape as the 10-year-old bids to win Exeter’s Haldon Gold Cup for the second time today.

The dual Grade One-winning chaser looks like having ground conditions to suit as he seeks to regain this limited handicap he lifted in 2014. He was also third in 2015.

“He’s in great form, he’s not showing his age at all at home,’’ said George.

“It looks like he’s going to get the ground in his favour for the first time for a long time.

“Age isn’t on his side, but his heart is. We’ve aimed him at this race and we’ll see if it goes his way.”