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Foxrock has age barrier to overcome to justify NH Chase favouritism

Irish novice chaser Foxrock heads the betting at 7/1 with Coral for the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but his age is a major negative if he is to land the 4m amateur riders’ contest.

Ted Walsh’s six-year-old has a progressive profile and looked a smart staying chaser in the making when beating Sizing Gold by seven lengths in a Grade 2 contest at Naas last time out.

However, of the 64 five and six-year-olds to have taken part in the NH Chase since 1989, only Tricky Trickster in 2011 has managed to land the spoils.

That is a worrying statistic for his supporters, but otherwise he boasts a solid profile as far as trends for the race are concerned.

Favourites have a good record having won three of the last four runnings, and the last three winners had all previously contested a Grade 1 novice chase earlier in the season.

Foxrock finished third to Carlingford Lough in the Grade 1 Topaz Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown on his penultimate outing, so he meets the class criteria required.

There are also two other key stats in his favour.

The first three home in last three runnings have all been rated 137+, and Foxrock is currently rated 142.

He also goes into the race on the back of a win last time out, and nine of the last 12 winners had finished in the first two in their final prep run.

Away from the stats, he is also sure to get maximum assistance from the saddle in a race where a cool head and tactics are vital.

With Danny Mullins, who has partnered him in all his runs this season, ineligible to ride, the first choice is the trainer’s daughter Katie Walsh.

She is one of the top lady amateur riders’ in Ireland and won the race in 2010 on Poker de Sivola.

If, for some reason, she is unavailable then Foxrock will be partnered by another highly rated up-and-coming amateur in the shape of Richie Kiely. He has ridden plenty of winners in point-to-points and is attached to Philip Fenton.