Cooper winning over doubters after stunning Fox Norton victory
Colin Tizzard said on Sunday the late Alan Potts' decision to appoint Bryan Cooper as rider of his British-based horses did not necessarily meet with unconditional approval at Venn Farm, but the trainer praised a "brilliant ride" after Cooper steered home Fox Norton to record a second high-profile winner at Cheltenham's November meeting.
Cooper's appointment raised eyebrows in some quarters, principally because Robbie Power enjoyed multiple top-level successes on the Potts horses in the spring, but Cooper has started the role in style, adding this Grade 2 Shloer Chase victory to success on Finian's Oscar on Friday.
"I'm chuffed for Bryan as he's been under pressure and there's pressure riding for us," said Tizzard. "Alan decided he was going to ride all the horses in England and I went along with it, but if I had my choice it might not have been.
"But he has come out on Friday and given Finian's Oscar a brilliant ride, and he was brilliant today – no-one could have ridden him any better. We can fill him up with confidence as he's a good jockey and we can put it out of our mind [now]; he can ride everything."
Few horses will give Cooper greater enthusiasm for the future than Fox Norton, who again showed himself to be a two-miler out of the top drawer with a performance that gave his backers no cause for concern.
Racing prominently throughout, he hit the front three out and quickly stretched clear, coming home eight lengths in front of Cloudy Dream, with front-runner Special Tiara just behind in third.
Fox Norton was cut to a best-priced 8-1 for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, while he is no bigger than 5-2 for next month's Betfair Tingle Creek, although Tizzard left open the tantalising possibility his star could be sent on a different trajectory entirely.
"There's absolutely no need to change from two miles at the moment, but if you ask me tomorrow that might change," he said.
"You musn't pigeon-hole these horses as good two-milers. We've seen Kauto Star in the past win over two miles, then he was a Gold Cup horse, wasn't he?
"When you can win like that I don't think there is any reason we should step him up, but the biggest, most prestigious races are over three miles two [furlongs].
"I think it's everyone's desire to run in the King George. It was always Alan Potts' wish to keep this one away from Sizing John, who has a chance to win the triple crown million-pound bonus, and that still stands.
"But if Sizing John got beaten in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and we won the Tingle Creek, he is still entered in the King George – just in case."
Fox Norton is a general 12-1 fifth-favourite for the 32Red-backed King George at Kempton.
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