Paul George has opened up a satellite yard in Normandy in the former stables of legendary dual-purpose trainer Francois Doumen and plans to have his first runner towards the end of February.
George, who saddled his first winner last August after taking over from his mother Karen, plans to campaign horses in both countries from the 180-stable premises in Bouce and his current set-up in Crediton, Devon.
Doumen, who retired in 2017, sent out Group winners such as Jim And Tonic internationally on the Flat and is remembered for jumpers like The Fellow, the first French-trained winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1994, and Baracouda.
“Sometimes you have to pinch yourself,” said George, who currently spends three days a week in France. “It’s incredible when you think of all the Group and Grade 1 winners to go through the yard.
“Francois lives nearby and still comes round occasionally. He often says things like, ‘Baracouda used to love this gallop’ – which makes you think, ‘I need to find a horse like him’.”
Francois Doumen leads in The Fellow and Adam Kondrat after their Cheltenham Gold Cup victory in 1994
The yard was bought by one of Karen George’s old owners, who moved to France to set up a stud, and will be run by the trainer’s assistant Cassie Haughton alongside French staff, with his mother taking over as assistant in England.
George, who is renting the property, has around 50 horses in training, including a number of two-year-olds being put through their paces in France, and believes the chance to set up the new yard was an unmissable opportunity to offer owners a unique experience.
“It’s one of the best spots in Europe with facilities such as an indoor arena,” said George, “I’m running at capacity in my current yard and this was preferable to renting stables somewhere like Newmarket and having to treble my training fees.
“All of my owners have been really excited by the project and some have visited. For English owners, the prize-money is a definite perk and I’ve been in touch with a few studs to attract European owners. Hopefully when we get some results we can expand.
“This was a good way to keep everything sensible and for me to retain control of it myself. It works well and if I leave my yard in England at 6pm I can be in the French yard by 6am.”
Last December trainer Gay Kelleway announced her decision to set up a satellite yard in France from March 1 in a bid to combat any impact from Brexit on travelling horses.
However George’s decision was not influenced by politics, and he added: “There might be a hiccup in areas such as travelling horses for a few days, but at the moment we’re trying to combat something that doesn’t exist – I’m not ignoring it, but if the worst does happen we’ll find a solution.”
George, who is primarily a Flat trainer, sent out six winners in 2018 and hopes to continue his upward curve in his first full season.
“We made a dream start, especially as we had only eight horses this time last year,” the trainer said. “I hope, that as long as I keep doing a good job with the horses I’ve got, we can get noticed, keep expanding and perhaps pick up a big owner as well.
“I think England will always be my first base, though, because, as much as the prize-money is a draw in France, I really love English racing – there’s something magical about it.”
Get exclusive insight from the track and live tipping with our up-to-the-minute service on racingpost.com and the Racing Post mobile app