Fox Norton lands Shloer Chase but victory marred by death of Simonsig

Mon 14 Nov 2016

Colin Tizzard's Festival team has an exciting new member after Fox Norton continued his ascent at Cheltenham with victory in the Shloer Chase which was overshadowed by the death of Simonsig.

Having watched stable star Thistlecrack advertise his Gold Cup claims 24 hours earlier with a second success over fences, the Sherborne handler once again sported a broad smile after his new recruit captured the Grade Two contest.

But Tizzard's satisfaction was in stark contrast to the sadness felt by Nicky Henderson after dual Festival winner Simonsig broke a leg when he fell at the third fence and had to be put down.

The Seven Barrows handler said: "It was a hind leg (injury). I thought he was all right when he got up.

"You all know what the game is like. It tests us, and it is one of those things.

"It is not fair for the team more than anything."

Purchased by Alan and Ann Potts after he blew away his rivals in a handicap at the course last month, Fox Norton wasted no time in paying back part of the sum laid out for him in a victory Tizzard dedicated to the six-year-old's former trainer Neil Mulholland.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Special Tiara, in his customary front-running role, took the field along until the third-last where he was joined in a breakaway group of three which also consisted of the eventual winner and runner-up Simply Ned.

Having moved up in menacing fashion aboard last year's Arkle third, Aidan Coleman guided Fox Norton into what was to be a race-winning lead on the run down to the second-last.

After safely negotiating the last two fences, the pair pulled clear up the hill for a nine-length success over Simply Ned, with the same distance back to Special Tiara in third.

Following the race, the winner was trimmed from 10-1 into 6-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase by Paddy Power and from 20s into 7-1 for the same race by William Hill.

Tizzard said: "I'm delighted and slightly embarrassed. This is all down to Neil Mulholland. We just put him in the system for a fortnight and have done nothing with him. He was a ready-made horse.

"That's what we were hoping we were buying, and we can see that already.

"We saw him here at the last meeting when he absolutely coasted up, and again on level weights with these good horses and he's done the same.

"He's a beautiful young horse. He just travelled and jumped.

"The Tingle Creek (Sandown) is where they normally go, horses like him, so that's what we'll do."

Henderson struggled to comprehend what had happened to Simonsig just minutes after Sprinter Sacre, whose retirement was announced earlier in the day, had paraded in front of the Cheltenham masses.

The Seven Barrows handler said: "I can't get this right. You have tears in every single way.

"I've been saying for the last two weeks I would not have worked Sprinter Sacre with him. He has been working too well for Sprinter Sacre.

"They used to go together but he (Sprinter) would not have been able to go with this horse. I thought I got him back.

"Ronnie (Bartlett, owner) adores the horse. The last three months he had not missed one day.

"It (Sprinter Sacre's retirement) was not a funeral, but a celebration of life, but now we've got the funeral and the tears all of a sudden go the other way."

Trainer Nicky Richards plans to send Simply Ned back over to Ireland at Leopardstown over Christmas for the Grade One Paddy Power Chase, a race in which the nine-year-old finished second last year.

Richards said: "He never lets us down. He was very consistent and he has run a very good race."

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