Fox Norton, the 4/5 favourite, took the G2 two-mile Shloer Chase for the second year in a row, beating Cloudy Dream by eight lengths.
The Lando seven-year-old, who runs in the colours of the late Ann and Alan Potts, won two Grade One chases last season [at Aintree and Punchestown] for trainer Colin Tizzard. He was ridden for the first time today by Bryan Cooper.
Tizzard said: “I suppose we were half-expecting that, weren’t we, on his last two runs last season and this race last year. We didn’t know about the ground, and it clearly is no concern whatsoever. I don’t think ground is going to be an issue, whatever we run on.
“For me he is a bigger, heavier horse this year. There’s no need to change from two miles – although if you ask me tomorrow morning that might change. It was a lovely performance. We have done plenty of work with him – the last thing in the world we want to do is bring these brilliant horses to the races not fit. We make sure that’s not the reason why they are beat, but I’m sure he will improve on that. The way he crosses a fence, the way he stays on, he’s a two-miler, isn’t he?”
Asked whether he was concerned about a cut on Fox Norton’s hind leg, Tizzard replied: “If you remember he had a cut on his front leg after this race last year and that kept him off for four months. That was a worry. This is just a nick – absolutely nothing.
“He will head for the Tingle Creek. It was always Alan Potts’ wish that we kept this horse away from [Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup winner] Sizing John. Sizing John still has a chance of winning the £1million [The Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown bonus for winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Festival], so that still stands. If he gets beat [at Haydock] and we win the Tingle Creek – he [Fox Norton] is entered in the King George, just in case.
“I’m chuffed for Bryan Cooper. He’s been under pressure, no two ways about it. Alan decided he was going to ride all the horses in England and I went along with it, but if I’d had my choice, it might not have been. But he’s come out yesterday on Finian’s Oscar and given him a lovely ride. He was brilliant on this one [Fox Norton] today – no one could have ridden him any better, and I hope we can fill him up with confidence, because he is a good jockey and we can put it out of our minds – there’s no reason why he can’t ride everything.”
FOX BEATS SHLOER HORSES
Jockey Bryan Cooper was pleased with the performance of Fox Norton, who produced a commanding performance when running out the eight-length winner of the Shloer Chase for the second year running at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The Colin Tizzard-trained gelding was sent off the 4/5 market leader for the two-mile contest and favourite backers never had a moment’s doubt as the seven-year-old skipped from fence to fence, taking up the running as the field turned for home before powering up the hill to record a handsome victory.
Cooper, who was appointed the retained rider for the late Alan Potts’ (owner, who died a week ago today) horses in the UK last month, was delighted with the performance after the race.
“It is a great thrill to be riding horses like this,” said Cooper.
“I have never really ridden a proper two miler before and when they jump and travel like that, it is some experience. He is a fair one.
“We went a nice gallop. I was a little bit worried about the ground but, even though he had never ran on it before, Colin said he will handle it grand.
“I love riding on these big days at the big festivals and it is great to get the opportunity.
“He’s got a King George entry but, when he’s winning like this over two miles, there’s no need to change anything. We’ll see how it goes though. He’s in his own league at this trip at the moment so why change things?
“It was very sad what happened to Alan. I didn’t know him that well and I only really got to know him a bit about three or four weeks ago. It’s a big loss to the game and he loved his big days and big winners.
“I am sure Alan is looking down on us now and hopefully we can keep them winning for him.”
BIG DREAMS FOR CLOUDY
Trainer Malcolm Jefferson is thinking of a Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup challenge with Cloudy Dream, who finished second in today’s Shloer Chase.
Sent off at 9/4, the grey proved no match for the 4/5 favourite Fox Norton, who won by eight lengths. The winner is a tip-top horse over today’s trip of two miles, and was narrowly touched off in last season’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase in which he was runner-up to Special Tiara. Today the last-named horse was in opposition again, and after making much of the running stayed on well to take third, inches behind Cloudy Dream.
A good run by Cloudy Dream was more than ample consolation for the Jefferson family following an entry mix-up involving the horse at the start of last week. He was meant to be put into yesterday’s feature, the BetVictor Gold Cup, but was placed into the earlier longer chase backed by the same sponsor. When the mistake was realised he went into the Shloer Chase.
Jefferson said: “As things have turned out I’m happy he wasn’t able to run yesterday. It wouldn’t have suited him carrying 11st 12lb in a hot race like that on such testing ground. I’m really pleased with the way he’s run. His owner [Trevor Hemmings] would like us to think about aiming him for the [Timico] Cheltenham Gold Cup – he [Hemmings] has won the Ryanair Chase.”
Henry De Bromhead, the trainer of Special Tiara, said: “I’m delighted with that run. He would have hated that ground, and so to run that well on his first start of the season was very good. We’ll think about the Tingle Creek Chase or a race at Kempton for him next.”
HUGHES STILL DREAMING WITH CLOUDY
Brian Hughes paid tribute to the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Cloudy Dream (9/4) who finished a creditable second to the impressive eight-length winner Fox Norton (4/5 favourite) in the G2 Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.
The seven-year-old son of Cloudings kept on gamely in the home straight but was no match for Colin Tizzard’s charge who delivered a commanding performance in the two-mile event.
Hughes said: “He’s run a blinder. He hated that ground and it’s a shame it’s like that – the ground is horrendous. He has just got some heart to get back into it. The winner is a good horse though.”
Noel Fehily, aboard third-placed Special Tiara, commented: “You have to be happy with him after that – I thought he ran a fantastic race. We knew he hates the ground but he jumped brilliant and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Wayne Hutchinson, rider of the fourth Simply Ned, remarked: “He has run well, he just got a bit tired up the run-in but it’s a pleasing run.”
Tom Scudamore, partnering Vaniteux (5th) added: “I had a good ride off him but he wasn’t up to the class of the others.”
2.35pm Shloer Chase (Grade 2)
1 FOX NORTON (Ann & Alan Potts Limited) Colin Tizzard 7-11-06 Bryan Cooper 4/5 Fav
2 Cloudy Dream (Trevor Hemmings) Malcolm Jefferson 7-11-03 Brian Hughes 9/4
3 Special Tiara (Sally Rowley-Williams) Henry De Bromhead IRE 10-11-06 Noel Fehily 8/1
Distances: 8, nk
Tote Win: £1.60 Places:£1.20; £1.30 Exacta:£2.80
To view a replay of the race, please click here –