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Fox Norton set to follow direct path to Cheltenham Festival

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Fox Norton looks set to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival after a late setback ruled him out of an intended appearance at Newbury this weekend.

Colin Tizzard's charge chased home Altior in the Grade Two Betfair Exchange Chase last season before going on to finish second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The Dorset-based trainer was keen on a rematch on Saturday, but said: "He wasn't quite right Thursday dinner time. It was the dreaded infection in the foot."

Tizzard went on: "It is a nightmare if it comes on the day before a big race. Joe (Tizzard) rode him (Friday morning) and said he was all right, but when he got back on the concrete he nodded a bit and his foot was hot, so we couldn't run him.

"It's small, but it's a problem if you get it the day before a race. If he'd had it last week he would have been fine as it's only a 48-hour thing.

"We think we can get him ready for Cheltenham without having a run."

Fox Norton rounded off last season by claiming Grade One events at Aintree and Punchestown and made a successful start to the current campaign in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November.

He was pulled up on his latest appearance in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, but Tizzard is hopeful he will bounce back at Cheltenham, either in the Champion Chase or the Ryanair.

The trainer added: "He will go for one of the two races (at Cheltenham). I wouldn't say the Champion Chase necessarily.

"He looks like he handles any trip but you can't get away from the fact he nearly won the Champion Chase last year and he was just as impressive in the Shloer.

"He has got the three festivals coming. If he stays fit and sound he'll go to Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown."