Joe’s Jottings – Cheltenham Antepost Tip

Fox Norton wins the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham

The Cheltenham Festival is now a mere seven weeks away and with targets becoming clearer, this looks a good time to start delving into the ante-post betting markets to hopefully get us to mid-March with a nice betting portfolio to start battle with. Read our ITV Racing Tips page for selections on the build-up to the festival.

The race that currently interests me from an ante-post angle is the Ryanair Chase, where the Willie Mullins trained Min heads most markets. This eight-year-old son of Walk In The Park made a winning seasonal reappearance in the John Durkan at Punchestown in December. He has occupied the runner-up berth behind Altior in both of his previous festival starts, so it is understandable that connections are reluctant to face that rival again. I am unconvinced that he really wants this trip, however, and this race is usually won by a horse that has contested three miles at some point in their career, which Min is yet to do – so I am more than happy to take the favourite on.

Waiting Patiently is a popular horse who got no luck when badly hampered, and ultimately unseating his rider, in the King George last month. He would be arriving here without a previous course run, however, which would have to be a concern, and unless the ground has plenty of give in it his participation would be in doubt anyway. Footpad, Monalee, Kemboy and Road To Respect are all 12/1 or shorter, but the first named will likely have the unenviable task of facing the mighty Altior in the Champion Chase, whilst the last three all look Gold Cup bound.

Interestingly, the King George has been a fantastic trial for this race in the past. Fondmort, Our Vic, Imperial Commander, Albertas Run, Riverside Theatre, Cue Card, Dynaste and the ill-fated Vautour were all beaten in the Kempton feature prior to their respective successes in this contest. This brings me on to my selection, Fox Norton, who finished pulled up in the 2017 renewal of the aforementioned King George. Colin Tizzard’s charge was off the track for 389-days afterwards, but he made a creditable return to action when second behind the mighty Altior at Ascot on Saturday. That suggests that he still retains much of his ability, and although there were just the three runners contesting that race, he had the former Grade 1 winner Diego Du Charmil well behind him – and that rival had a race-fitness advantage. Connections are reportedly keen to avoid Altior, which makes sense considering he has been well behind him now on the two previous occasions that they have met. So, the Ryanair looks his likely target, as long as Nicky Henderson’s stable star makes it to March with no interruptions.

This contest is not an afterthought though, and Fox Norton has often shaped in two-mile contests at the highest level that a step up in trip would see him to even better effect. He seemed to confirm that opinion when running out a facile winner of the 2017 Grade 1 Melling Chase over 2m4f at Aintree. That remains his career-best RPR, but the other three occasions that he has recorded an RPR in the 170s have all been at this venue, and his form figures here read an impressive 2311121. He is currently around the 14/1 mark in most ante-post markets, and a big run in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury next month will likely see those odds shorten.

Tip Advised

FOX NORTON – 14/1 Ryanair Chase

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