Wednesday 20 September 2017

Fox snares more glory for Power

Jockey Robbie Power celebrates with the trophy after winning the BoyleSports Champion Chase on Fox Norton at Punchestown yesterday. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Jockey Robbie Power celebrates with the trophy after winning the BoyleSports Champion Chase on Fox Norton at Punchestown yesterday. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Robbie Power's sensational 2017 can get better today when Sizing John tackles the feature and the rider's victory in yesterday's main event on Fox Norton was a mere continuation of the party.

However, it was another black day in the history of Labaik, the superb Cheltenham winner which decided he did not fancy it in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, planting himself at the start. The race went to Cilaos Emery.

Pat Fahy produced Western Boy in fine shape off a lay-off to take the handicap hurdle. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Pat Fahy produced Western Boy in fine shape off a lay-off to take the handicap hurdle. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

The well-backed 5/2 chance Fox Norton, unable to lie up comfortably for much of the big BoyleSports Champion Chase, made what should have been critical mistakes. Nevertheless he got the better of Un De Sceaux in a cracking conclusion.

Un De Sceaux, for the first time this season, met defeat.

He did little wrong but, over the trip on spring ground, he was unable to quicken as Fox Norton took over up the run-in. God's Own might have gotten second but for jumping on top of the final flight.

Trainer Colin Tizzard said: "It had been on our minds ever since Cheltenham and Aintree, 'Are we going one step too far?' He's progressed into a beautiful young horse. This is his minimum trip, but he was good enough to win this and very nearly a Champion Chase.

"Luckily when he came on the market Alan and Ann Potts wanted him. It doesn't always turn out like that, but he has. Robbie was cool. He didn't get involved in battles until he had to. The horse made a few mistakes and Robbie said he was going flat out the whole time."

Power has had five Grade One winners for Potts in six weeks, cementing an axis that will be strengthened further if Sizing John can take today's Gold Cup.

One of the major talking points was the start in the Grade One novice hurdle. Gordon Elliott seemed hugely irked after Labaik decided not to start, but opted not to comment on that afterwards.

Labaik did elect to jump off a furlong or so behind the field and hacked around to be officially last of the seven runners. He seemingly was not helped by activities at the start when the runners had to take another turn.

Now it was at the mercy of his chief Cheltenham victim, Melon, but the race was a disaster for favourite backers as Melon ended up slugging it out up front with Pingshou, paid the price and could offer no more when stablemate Cilaos Emery (8/1) edged ahead near the wire under David Mullins.

Trainer Willie Mullins said: "I suppose the winner was lucky that the two in front took each other on. David took advantage of that.

"I was disappointed for Melon. If Ruby let (Pingshou) off he wouldn't look very brainy, so he went with him and kept his fingers crossed."

It was a good but not great day for Mullins, who cut the gap in the trainers' race to Elliott to €259,655. Defeat for Un De Sceaux cost him €100,000.

The other Grade One, the novice chase, was less dramatic before a crowd of just under 20,000. His victory at Leopardstown over Our Duke and his Cheltenham third to Yorkhill rendered Disko a form stand-out and he duly delivered under Bryan Cooper at odds of 13/8f, a generous price relative to what he had been earlier.

Disko was in command from two out, Anibale Fly running on into second, denying Meade and Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown a one-two as A Genie In Abottle ran a fine race in third.

"I've always loved him and he's been the apple of my eye for a long time," said Meade. "He's never stopped developing since we got him and we've always thought he was very good. We had one or two setbacks but very little and most things he's done it well. It does appear that good ground suits him really well.

"Even thinking back to Leopardstown his good runs were there and I suppose when he ran in Cheltenham he ran against one of the best horses we've seen for quite a while, in Yorkhill."

Pat Fahy produced Western Boy in fine shape off a lay-off to take the handicap hurdle, a €60,000 affair, under Jody McGarvey at 14/1.

Fahy admitted: "He's a lucky horse to be here at all because last year he got brought down and his sinus and all that part of his nose was broken. He was going well but got an awful fall.

"He didn't just slip up: a horse kicked him in the head too. They did a great job to get him back."

While Enniskillen (6/4f) landed a gamble in the opening banks race, extending Jamie Codd's lead to three over Patrick Mullins in the amateur riders' challenge, the bumpers were better to the layers.

Robert Tyner and Derek O'Connor (above) combined in the €100,000 Goffs Land Rover Bumper with 12/1 shot Vision Des Flos, while there was some cheer for Elliott when 25/1 newcomer Roaring Bull took the finale under Lisa O'Neill.

"I wanted to have as many runners as I did. I thought my other horse (Stooshie) was the pick. He was a bit unlucky," said Elliott.

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