George Bryant kept ignoring that sore on his tongue.
Article By: Hal Lundgren
He blamed it on "too many soft drinks." At 39 and a non-smoker, he didn't consider it serious.
After many tries, people in his life talked Bryant into a doctor visit. His diagnosis was chilling. Stage 4 oral cancer.
At a hospital in his native Fort Worth, Bryant underwent successful, 12-hour surgery late in 2021. Later, he said, "After the operation, I was out for two days."
Surgeons had to replace part of his tongue with forearm tissue. They also removed 75 lymph nodes from his neck. Follow-up included 30 rounds of radiation.
The experience has been life-changing. He explained, "Things no longer upset me. I never get mad."
Bryant also made a career change. He had worked as an assistant trainer under his father at Delta Downs. The medical setback convinced him that if he wanted to become a full-time trainer, this was the moment. Last year, he passed the trainer test at Sam Houston Race Park.
When SHRP opened its Thoroughbred season on Jan. 6, Bryant-trained Sky Tizzy rallied for an upset win at 16-1. The filly had lost her first two races.
"She surprised me by coming from behind to win that race," Bryant said. "She's still doing well. She always finishes her feed. That's a good sign. It means she's a contented filly."
Her win convinced Bryant to enter Sky Tizzy in the $100,000 Bara Lass Stakes for Texas-bred 3-year-old fillies. The Bara Lass is part of the Jan. 28 Houston Racing Festival, for which purses approach $1 million.
Could the Bara Lass be a stretch for Sky Tizzy?
"I don't think so," Bryant said. There's reason for his optimism. The filly chased fast fractions on Jan. 6, then made a late surge around the fading pace-setters. After three weeks of rest, she will be fresh for the Bara Lass.
Bryant's wife, Soldin, and their infant, River Derby, will be here to support Bryant and Sky Tizzy.
"The surgery and recovering from it were really hard on my wife," he said. "She was going through pregnancy."
In addition to his first full year of training, Bryant's 2023 plans include a doctor follow-up every three months.
"This experience is not something that keeps me awake at night," he said. "It doesn't scare me. I just keep rolling along.
"These days, I take nothing for granted. And I certainly won't let silly things bother me. I don't have time for that."