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Connections hope Foxrock can fly high in Ryanair

Foxrock will be supplemented for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after owner Barry Connell ruled out a tilt at the Gold Cup, and Coral make the improving seven-year-old an 8/1 chance for the 2m 5f contest.

The Ted Walsh-trained gelding has won four and been placed five times in 10 starts over fences, and posted a career-best effort in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month when a 3/4 length runner-up to leading Gold Cup hope Carlingford Lough.

That run left connections contemplating a crack at blue riband event on the final day of the Festival, but they have surprised everyone by announcing that Foxrock will instead be supplemented at a cost of £15,000 for the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on Thursday, March 12th.

Connell feels that it is the right call with the future in mind, as going 3m 2f in the Gold Cup with a young horse could leave its mark.

He said: “He’s proven over the Ryanair trip, he’s not a slow horse and it might be a good stepping stone for the Gold Cup in a year’s time. It will be a less gruelling race than the Gold Cup.”

Off an official rating of 164, Foxrock is rated just 2lb lower than Don Cossack who heads the Ryanair betting with Coral at 3/1.

The form of his run in the Irish Hennessy also looks strong as the front two pulled eight lengths clear of last year’s Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere, and had the likes of Boston Bob and On His Own in behind.

That suggests Foxrock is a major player in the Ryanair, especially with further improvement looking assured.

However, the one concern is that the only time he has finished out of the frame over fences came at last year’s Festival.

Foxrock was sent off the heavily-backed 3/1 favourite for the National Hunt Chase but could finish just ninth of 15 to Midnight Prayer.

It’s fair to say that Foxrock has improved significantly since then and now looks a much stronger individual, but course form is important and that is the one negative in an otherwise rock-solid profile.