Leading Ryanair contender Fox Norton ruled out of festival with leg injury
Leading Ryanair Chase contender Fox Norton will miss the Cheltenham Festival and the rest of the season, connections revealed on Monday.
The eight-year-old, who was pulled up behind Might Bite in the King George VI Chase last time out, had been general 5-1 third favourite for the Ryanair, behind Un De Sceaux and Waiting Patiently, who is himself by no means certain to run.
Fox Norton has been placed at the last two festivals, finishing third behind Douvan in the Racing Post Arkle and then runner-up to Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase 12 months ago.
However, assistant trainer Joe Tizzard reported on Monday: "Unfortunately Fox Norton will miss the Cheltenham festival and the rest of the season due to a slight suspensory injury."
Setback for Willoughby Court
There was also concerning news on Monday for fans and backers of JLT Novices' Chase favourite Willoughby Court, who has poison in a foot and cannot be regarded as a certain runner, trainer Ben Pauling revealed.
Willoughby Court has done most of his work and if the hold-up lasts just a couple of days, rather than four or five, Pauling is optimistic he will make it the festival. However, an intended racecourse gallop on Tuesday was cancelled and his progress over the next few days will be crucial.
Willoughby Court's setback is the second significant blow suffered by owners Paul And Clare Rooney in the last few days, following Friday's announcement that If The Cap Fits would miss the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Pauling, who enjoyed a career-first festival win with Willoughby Court in last year's Neptune Novices' Hurdle (now the Ballymore), said: "Unfortunately Willoughby Court has a nasty poison in his foot. His prep had been going brilliantly until this weekend and he's been in fabulous form.
"We're still very excited about the JLT because I think it's his to win and he's been absolutely sparkling at home. Most of his work is done, but he was going to have a racecourse gallop which has had to be cancelled and we'll just have to sit tight for a few days."
He added: "It's difficult to say what his prospects are. We're doing everything in our powers to get him ready to rock and roll, but I'm not going to beat about the bush – it's not ideal.
"It depends if it's two days or five days. Five days would be no good, but two would be just about okay."
Willoughby Court had been general 4-1 favourite for the JLT but drifted to a best-priced 8-1 with Betfair Sportsbook, with Invitation Only the new market leader at around 5-1.