King George beckons after Fox Norton romps to major triumph
If you can't beat them, buy them.
That was the approach taken by Alan Potts in October. Six months later, on one of the sport's biggest stages, it reaped dividends.
At Cheltenham's first meeting of the season the Potts-owned Sizing Platinum was thumped by the then Neil Mulholland-trained Fox Norton. When that afternoon's winner returned to Cheltenham in November he was owned by Potts and trained by Colin Tizzard. He won, he then nearly won the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and in the Friday Aintree highlight he not only won the JLT Melling Chase, he absolutely hosed up.
The purchase price for Fox Norton will not have been cheap but it has proved worthwhile, particularly as the seven-year-old - a second Grade 1 winner on the card for the trainer, owner and his new retained rider Robbie Power - is now being earmarked for a tilt at the 32Red King George VI Chase.
"He ran a brilliant race when he beat us - that was a good enough reason to buy him," said Potts, whose 4-1 shot stormed clear from the penultimate fence to defeat Sub Lieutenant by six lengths, with Traffic Fluide a distant third and last year's winner God's Own even further back in fifth.
"I backed him for everyone in the party, about half a dozen of us," revealed Potts, while Tizzard made public that having improved for a longer trip here, the plan for Fox Norton is to seek more improvement over another four furlongs at Kempton on Boxing Day when stablemate Thistlecrack will hopefully be there to defend his crown.
"Oh, it's lovely when it's happening," said Tizzard, for whom it happened again 40 minutes later when Ultragold took the Topham to complete a treble for the trainer.
"This is a cracking boy, he really is. He has everything at the moment. I think he'll make up into a King George horse - as long as Sizing John isn't there!"
The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John is, of course, also owned by Potts, and therefore the mount of Power, under whose steering Fox Norton proved much too good for Sub Lieutenant, now bound for Punchestown.
"It was a super run," said trainer Henry de Bromhead. "He was just beaten by a quicker horse on the day sadly."
With the winning yard in such rampant form, De Bromhead might well find his Punchestown runners facing a few members of the Tizzard team.
"We had such a good time early in the season but then had to go through a bit of pain for a month," said Tizzard, sporting a beaming smile. "That's all gone now. We can enjoy it again."
This has all taken me by surprise
Gold Cup-winning jockey Robbie Power has had an astonishing few weeks. After completing a Grade 1 double at Aintree on Friday in the Melling Chase he reflected on both Fox Norton and his purple patch . . .
The whole way through the race I was in my comfort zone on Fox Norton.
He made one or two little mistakes, but that was probably my fault, as I was getting to know him. When I gave him a squeeze at the back of the second-last he quickened away well and winged the last.
He's a horse who has grown up a lot. Maybe riding out with the cows has helped him!
I think he has the capability to stay three miles on good ground. We've obviously got Sizing John as well, which is a great headache to have. Maybe one could go for the Lexus and one could go for the King George?
It's great [for me] to have backed this up after Cheltenham. It proves Cheltenham was no fluke.
People who spend a lot of money in the game, like the Potts's, deserve to be successful. It's been a fantastic six weeks for them. I'm thrilled to be able to ride their horses. Good horses make good jockeys.
Physically I'm still 100 per cent, and mentally I'm stronger than I've ever been - but, of course, this has all taken me by surprise. I've been in this game for 16 years and I hadn't been offered a big job, apart from Jessie's.
It's great to have got a big owner's job. It's fantastic.