Saturday 24 March 2018

Tizzard's Fox can outstmart his rivals and claim feature

Trainer Colin Tizzard. Photo: Getty Images
Trainer Colin Tizzard. Photo: Getty Images

Marcus Armytage

Colin Tizzard will, no doubt, be looking forward to going on holiday next Monday but, at Punchestown this week, the trainer can cap an extraordinary season by winning the first day feature, the Boylesports Champion Chase, with smart performer Fox Norton.

Having just failed to get up on the line in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham - when the Tizzard team were going through a bit of a lull - Fox Norton scored a facile victory in the Melling Chase at Aintree. It is a big ask to be at a peak for all three festivals but he did miss the depths of winter with an injury and will love the good ground.

Both he and the Ryanair Chase winner, Un De Sceaux, may be better over a bit further but, given the underfoot conditions, Fox Norton is taken to come out on top in the hands of the in-form Robbie Power.

Pingshou, another Grade One winner for the trainer at Aintree, should not be far away in The Herald Champion Novices Hurdle earlier either.

That, however, is the first race of the meeting in which Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott go head-to-head as they fight out the Irish trainers' title.

Elliott runs Labaik, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner which is extremely useful when he consents to race but has a nasty habit of planting himself at the star. He is up against Melon, which chased him home at Cheltenham, Bunk Off Early and Cilaos Emery from the Mullins yard.

Elliott has a lead of about €400,000 at the start of play. On the basis that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush in these situations, if Mullins is going to retain his title he needs a very good week and, frankly, Elliott needs to have a poor one. (© Telegraph Syndication, London)

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