Fox Norton topples Un De Sceaux as Power fairytale continues
He might not quite be capable of turning water into wine, but Robbie Power capitalised on the drying ground to foil Un De Sceaux's unbeaten Punchestown record with another superlative turn aboard Fox Norton to land a thrilling Boylesports Champion Chase.
Willie Mullins's Ryanair Chase winner had relished the extended two-and-a-half-mile trip when securing his third Grade 1 on the spin at the expense of Sub Lieutenant at Cheltenham in March.
Having been just denied by Special Tiara in the Champion Chase, Fox Norton then saw off Sub Lieutenant in even more decisive fashion over two-and-a-half in Aintree's Melling Chase, so there was an element of a decider about this €250,000 feature on day one of the Kildare venue's showpiece festival.
In the end, although Fox Norton struggled with the early two-mile fractions set by Rock The World and then Un De Sceaux, the youth in the British raider's legs won the day.
Fox Norton eventually found his rhythm and, after a lung-bursting tussle with Un De Sceaux and last year's winner God's Own, he had the momentum to pounce on landing over the final fence.
Fox Norton's length-and-three-quarter verdict over the odds-on Un De Sceaux was Power's seventh Grade 1 of the season, just eight days after his memorable Irish Grand National victory on Our Duke.
He might not be done yet either, with his Gold Cup-winning mount Sizing John still to come on Wednesday in the same Potts colours.
"It's been a fantastic run, but I'll just take it one day at a time." said a typically composed Power. "Fox Norton was flat to the boards the whole way here, but not too many horses can travel on the bridle behind Un De Sceaux. He's a very tough, very good horse."
As to which route he might go down next term, Power suggested the intermediate Grade 1 at Cheltenham in March might be an option. "He's going to be a lot better when he goes back up in trip," he said. "We'll leave the decisions up to Colin and Mr and Mrs Potts, but the Ryanair Chase looks the obvious race for him."
'Slow three-milers would be beat him'
Tizzard, who was saddling his first Irish winner, was of a similar mind. Asked if Fox Norton might be a King George VI Chase contender, he replied: "He might be. If there had been a two-and-a-half-miler here we'd have been in that, but there wasn't.
"If you saw this horse on the gallops at home, you'd never think he was a champion two-miler, because, honestly, slow three-milers would beat him."
Having warmed up for Cheltenham by chasing Altior home at Newbury, this was Fox Norton's fourth outing in less than three months. It has been a pretty rapid ascent for a horse who was acquired out of Neil Mulholland's yard after destroying Sizing Platinum, who was running in the Potts colours, in a Cheltenham handicap off a mark of 146 in October.
"It's been on our minds ever since Cheltenham and Aintree, are we going one step too far?" Tizzard conceded. "But he's just progressed into a beautiful young horse.
"I was lucky enough that when he came on the market Alan and Ann Potts wanted a horse like that. They don't always turn out, but he has."
Paddy Power trimmed the winner from 7-1 to 5-1 for the Ryanair, while Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh offered no excuses for Un De Sceaux, other than to agree he needs softer ground over two miles.