Colin Tizzard keen to swerve Altior rematch with Fox Norton at Cheltenham
Colin Tizzard on Sunday admitted he is not in a rush to take on Altior again with Fox Norton, despite taking positives from the 2017 Champion Chase runner-up's highly respectable comeback in Saturday's Clarence House Chase.
Returning to the track after an injury absence of more than a year, two-time Grade 1 winner Fox Norton jumped well throughout and stuck to his guns to finish seven lengths behind Altior, who was gaining a record-equalling 12th consecutive victory over fences.
Fox Norton, who had been pulled up in the 2017 King George on his previous start, will head to next month's Betfair-sponsored Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, after which a decision will be made about his Cheltenham Festival target.
"We're delighted with him and I think most of his ability is still there, but we've got to get him racing again and will take him to the Game Spirit next," said Tizzard.
"He's entered in the Champion Chase and Ryanair, and I suppose Altior will decide which way we go. I don't think we can beat him and on all known form we won't. But if he frightens everyone else away, we might decide to go for it."
Ante-post markets suggest Fox Norton holds better prospects in the Ryanair – he is a best-priced 16-1 with Betfred for the 2m5f contest and a general 25-1 shot for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase – and Tizzard would have no concerns about the longer trip.
"We ran him in the King George and he'll stay any trip when he's right so there's a chance he'll step up in trip, especially if Altior is going there in full throttle," the trainer said.
The Ryanair is not out of the question for Saturday's 21-length Ascot handicap chase winner Cyrname, although he would need to be supplemented and all five of his wins have come at right-handed tracks.
The Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old, owned by Johnny de la Hey, produced a coming of age performance and is set to return to the Berkshire track next month for a crack at the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase.
"Stepping back up in trip and with the hood off, he did what we hoped he was always capable of on Saturday," said Nicholls' assistant Harry Derham. "I'd imagine he'll take a fair hike in the handicap but he deserves his chance in graded company and, all being well, we'll go to the Ascot Chase.
"If he went and won at Ascot by ten lengths, maybe you'd think about the Ryanair, but he's a little dependent on going right-handed and his owner likes to run his horses where they can run their best races."
Derham added: "I'd imagine Politologue will also run in the Ascot Chase as he won a Grade 2 over course and distance in November, so we could be well represented in the race."
Away from Ascot on Saturday, clues for the staying chase division were provided, with Tizzard responsible for the first winner of Taunton's Weatherbys-sponsored Portman Cup in Royal Vacation and eyecatching Peter Marsh runner-up Robinsfirth.
"Royal Vacation looks a real stayer now and his owner [Jean Bishop] was talking about the Grand National and that gives me a bit of hope I'll be able to run him in it," said the trainer.
"Robinsfirth is a lovely horse who's had a history of leg trouble. There's a big possibility he'll go straight for the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival."
Paddy Power on Sunday attempted to lure ante-post punters via their each-way terms by going five places a fifth of the odds – as opposed to the four places a quarter of the odds offered by most firms – on the festival handicap races.
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