Colin Tizzard will, no doubt, be looking forward to going on holiday next Monday but, at Punchestown this week, he can cap an extraordinary season by winning the first day feature, the Boylesports Champion Chase, with Fox Norton.
Having just failed to get up in the on the line in the Champion Chase – when the Tizzard team was a bit quiet – Fox Norton scored a facile victory in the Melling Chase at Aintree. It is a big ask to do all three festivals but he missed the depths of winter with an injury and he will love the ground.
Both he and the Ryanair winner, Un De Sceaux may both be better over a bit further but on good ground Fox Norton is taken to come out on top. Tizzard’s Pingshou, another Grade One winner for the trainer at Aintree, should not be far away in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle earlier either.
That, however, is the first race of the meeting in which Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott go head-to-head with each other as they fight out the Irish trainers’ title. Elliott, who runs Labaik, the Supreme winner who is extremely useful when he consents to race, is up against Melon, the runner-up at Cheltenham, Bunk Off Early and Cilaos Emery from the Mullins yard.
Elliott has a lead of about €400,000. On the basis that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush in these situations if Mullins is going to retain his title he needs a very good week and, frankly, Elliott needs to have an appalling one.