Bryan Cooper partners Fox Norton to easy Cheltenham win
Under pressure Irish jockey claims second big prize of the week for Colin Tizzard
Bryan Cooper guided Fox Norton to victory at Cheltenham. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty
Fox Norton repeated last year’s success in the Shloer Chase with an authoritative display in the Grade Two heat at Cheltenham.
The seven-year-old was another poignant winner following the death a week ago of his owner Alan Potts.
He sat nicely in second place behind old rival Special Tiara, before going on under Bryan Cooper before the second-last fence.
The Colin Tizzard-trained 4-5 favourite pulled away in a matter of strides to win by eight lengths. Cloudy Dream pipped Special Tiara for second spot. Fox Norton was cut to 2-1 from 9-2 for the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown with Paddy Power.
Cooper said: “He’s very smart, it’s a fair thrill to ride one when they are going that speed and going so well.”
Tizzard said: “I suppose we were half-expecting that on his last two runs last season and in this race last year as well. We didn’t know about the ground, but the ground is obviously no concern and I don’t think it is an issue what he runs on.
“He is a much bigger and heavier horse and there is absolutely no need to change from two miles at the moment. It was a lovely performance.
“The last thing we want is to bring these brilliant horses to the races not fit. I’m sure he will improve on that. He looks a heavier horse to me and that might be because he is older. The Tingle Creek will be next.
“It was always Alan Potts’ wish to keep him away from Sizing John (Gold Cup winner), who still has the chance of winning the £1million bonus. If Sizing John gets beat (in the Betfair Chase on Saturday) and we won the Tingle Creek, he is entered in the King George just in case and we must not pigeon-hole horses.
“When he can win like that I don’t see any real reason why we should step him up (in trip), but the biggest and most prestigious races are over three and a quarter miles.
“I’m chuffed for Bryan, as he has been under pressure. He gave Finian’s Oscar a lovely ride and he was brilliant on this one today. No one could have rode him any better. Hopefully that will fill him up with confidence, as he is a good jockey.”
Meanwhile Elgin gave a battling performance to hold long-time leader Misterton in the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
Alan King’s five-year-old, owned by the Elite Racing Club, was ridden with great patience and tactical skill by Wayne Hutchinson.
He kept Elgin wide and delivered him to challenge on the rail at the second-last. Misterton proved a tough nut to crack, but his partner proved more than willing, to prevail by a neck.
Old Guard was four and a half lengths away in third and The New One was fourth.
Hutchinson said: “That was fantastic. Full credit to the boss. The horse ran two weeks ago and it was sort of a second thought, but he was in good form at home and he has produced him again on the day.
“I had a torrid run on the outside, but he was very honest and kept coming for me.
“He was tough and stuck his neck out to the line. He’s very genuine and was a good novice last year.”
Earlier North Hill Harvey continued his love affair with Cheltenham after making it two from two over fences in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase.
After winning the Greatwood Hurdle on the card 12 months ago, the Dan Skelton-trained six-year-old followed up his debut chase victory at the track last month to claim the Grade Two prize.
Having sat in behind long-time leader Ozzie The Oscar for much of the two-mile prize, the 6-4 shot readily opened up a clear advantage rounding the home turn before meeting the last two fences on a good stride and bounding away to score by 18 lengths from River Wylde.
Skelton said: “He jumped very well and I don’t think I’d say the ground is key, but the softer ground against the top-class performers the better his chances.
“Sandown (Henry VIII) is not off the agenda, but if it comes too soon we will probably run Born Survivor. If I didn’t think it comes too soon we could prioritise Harvey.
“I’m not sure about Kempton (Wayward Lad) for him. I will work backwards from the Arkle.”