Fox Norton’s withdrawal dents Tizzard’s hopes and throws Ryanair wide open
The experts and tipsters saw the writing on the wall more than a week ago. When trainer Colin Tizzard welcomed the press for a tour of his stable to pick out some Cheltenham Festival 2018 tips, there was one horse that was conspicuous by its absence.
Tizzard is desperate for a good festival this year, having come away from the 2017 event without a single winner, and Fox Norton was likely to be one of his best chances. At the time, he brushed off questions, saying the horse just had a minor foot infection, but that he would be fighting fit.
However, the trainer’s son and assistant, Jo Tizzard, issued a press release that confirmed what many had already suspected. He said: “Unfortunately, Fox Norton will miss the Cheltenham Festival and the rest of the season due to a slight suspensory injury.”
Can Team Tizzard still produce a winner?
2017 was, in general terms, a successful one for the man from Dorset. Nine grade one winners in a single year is a great achievement in anyone’s book. So can any of his undoubtedly talented bloodstock stay fit and produce a result at Cheltenham? Cheltenhamfestival.net is a site that specialises in providing experts tips and answering exactly these sorts of questions. They feel that with Fox Norton out of the running, Tizzard’s biggest hopes lie with Native River in the Gold Cup.
While all the attention has been focused on last year’s winner, Sizing John, and whether he can hold off the attack of the Nicky Henderson-trained Gold Cup favourite Might Bite, Tizzard’s eight year old gelding has been quietly attracting a growing number of fans in the racing community over the past week or two, and the horse is never far from the lips of those offering Cheltenham gold cup tips. When they watched his performance at Newbury two weeks ago, they clearly liked what they saw. Native River came in a strong third in the Gold Cup last year, and could easily go two better at Cheltenham 2018. He is one of the most compelling Cheltenham tips for Friday.
To walk away winless one year and with the Gold Cup the next would be the stuff of fairy tales, but Tizzard also has some other horses that could produce silverware. Cue Card is the most famous horse in his stable, and one of the most interesting Cheltenham racing tips doing the rounds is that he could have one more win left in him. Tizzard had toyed with the idea of entering him in the Gold Cup, but realistically, the Ryanair Chase makes far more sense, particularly in light of Fox Norton’s withdrawal.
Ryanair Chase blown wide open
With Fox Norton out of the equation, the other question for those seeking Cheltenham Festival tips concerns where the smart money is now being placed in the Ryanair Chase. As already mentioned, Cue Card has to be worth a look now that he has been confirmed for this race and withdrawn from the Gold Cup. Bookmakers feel the same way and have reduced his odds from 12/1 to just 7/1.
The favourite remains Un De Sceaux, and trainer Willie Mullins will be struggling to stifle a smile at the latest news, having seen his horse convincingly beaten by none other than Fox Norton at Punchestown last year.
The other runner well worth a look is Waiting Patiently. This was the horse that spoiled the party for Cue Card at Ascot a few weeks ago. Could trainer Ruth Jefferson’s rising star pull off a repeat performance at Cheltenham? The bookmakers certainly think so and are offering odds of just 3/2, making Waiting Patiently the new second favourite for this year’s Ryanair Chase.