Fox leads them a merry dance

News of the pick of the action from Cheltenham where Fox Norton ran his rivals ragged in the feature handicap chase.

Fox Norton ran his rivals ragged to win the Randox Health Handicap Chase at Cheltenham for Neil Mulholland.

After running into Douvan on more than one occasion last season, he found life much easier in handicaps.

Having carted Noel Fehily to the front fully half a mile from home, he jumped immaculately at the head of affairs.

The well-backed 5/2 favourite wandered slightly after the last but he still had 11 lengths to spare over Sizing Platinum, with Casino Markets third.

Mulholland said: "We felt there was marked improvement in him through the summer and he'd been working particularly well.

"It was his first run in a handicap but I sense it could be the last and we're going to have to raise his sights now, possibly towards the Shloer back here.

"He wears a hood because he can be a bit of a handful until you get him jocked up, but, touch-wood, it's all good now."

Coologue, whose tendency to hang left cost him on at least one big occasion last season, showed that a wind operation has ironed out that problem with a battling triumph in the Randox Handicap Chase.

The Charlie Longsdon-trained gelding had connections holding their breath as he jumped the last in a ding-dong battle with Keltus.

Richard Johnson was at his strongest as the seven-year-old (8/1) kept as straight as a gun barrel up the hill to prevail by a length.

Longsdon said: "He put in a string of seconds last season and it was so pronounced you had to ride him with one rein up the home straight.

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"It was especially apparent in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster. He actually threw away two races at Doncaster but a wind op has made all the difference.

"It's given him confidence and this time he had both the decent ground he loves and Richard Johnson on his back."

Nigel Twiston-Davies could not split his two contenders for the Richard Allen, Waters & The Brittons Novices' Hurdle, but in a race run at a sedate gallop Wholestone produced the best turn of foot to take the spoils.

The race may prove an informative trial for the Albert Bartlett at the Festival in March and it was no surprise to hear Twiston-Davies saying that both his winner and third home Ballymalin could be aimed at that contest.

Wholestone lived up to the immense promise of his comeback triumph at Warwick to lead at the final flight under Daryl Jacob and hold the persistent West Approach by half a length.

Twiston-Davies said: "It was very smooth, even though he has his own way of jumping, which, funnily enough, doesn't cause him to lose ground.

"Both he and Ballymalin are nice horses and Ballymalin would have been closer had they gone quicker.

"Wholestone could come back here for a novice over two and a half miles at the Paddy Power (meeting) but the long-term aim is the Albert Bartlett."

Sceau Royal could be a horse with a mission next week following his silky-smooth victory in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle.

Alan King's gelding showed how badly wrong his displays at the Festival and Aintree were by absolutely hacking up under a super-cool Jacob.

Bringing up a quick double for that jockey and owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, the 9/2 winner turned for home pulling the proverbial bus and it was always going to be a case of when Jacob decided to pull the trigger.

When that happened, Sceau Royal sprinted away up the hill to earn quotes of 33/1 for the Champion Hurdle.

However, his next run could be within a matter of days.

King said: "He's always been a very good horse but he wasn't right at both the Festival and Aintree. Last year he used to pull up in front and that's why Daryl held on to him for as long as possible.

"I was thankful they went a good gallop up front because it enabled him to settle.

"I'm not getting carried away at this stage but we will certainly get together and discuss the big handicap at Ascot next Saturday because normally he doesn't take long to get over his races."

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