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David Butcher has Franco Nandor rolling along nicely during his all-the-way win at Auckland. PHOTO: Megan Liefting/Race Images.

Fox hits the birdies in England while Franco Nandor plays a top round at Alexandra Park

Top golfer Ryan Fox was preparing to tee off in the English Open at Hertfordshire when Franco Nandor led all the way to win at Alexandra Park on Thursday night.

But Fox, who was gifted a 20% share in the Mach Three three-year-old by Lincoln Farms’ boss John Street after winning the Wairakei Invitational in June, heard the good news via a text from his mum.

“I was disappointed I couldn’t be there but hopefully I’ll get another chance to see him win later in the year,” Fox said via email.

Fox hit five birdies on his way to a solid opening round of 67, finishing four under, just four shots behind leader Northern Irishman Cormac Sharvin.

It continued his great start to the European Tour’s UK Swing, six events in England and Wales over the next six weeks.

Ryan Fox is interviewed after his eighth placing in the British Masters.Ryan Fox is interviewed after his eighth placing in the British Masters.Fox tied for eighth in the British Masters, firing one terrific round of 66 in atrocious conditons, to finish 11 under par, seven shots astern of Italian winner Renato Paratore.

And he was a solid 15th in the Hero Open a few days later in Birmingham.

Fox hadn’t played in a tournament since the New Zealand Open in early March and said “it’s nice to get back into the swing of things.

“It’s been a good start and my earnings are probably around $70,000 so far.”

Fox’s share of Franco Nandor’s $6600 winning purse pales in comparison - he will get just $1320. But the thrill of winning transcends that, especially since it came just two weeks after fellow Kiwi golfer Gareth Paddison enjoyed the win by Captain Nemo at Cambridge.

Paddison was given a 10% share in the Captaintreacherous colt when he finished second to Fox at Wairakei.

Captain Nemo could manage only sixth last night but had a second row to contend with while Franco Nandor drew perfectly in two.

Spell to strengthen

Fox won’t be in danger of missing Franco Nandor again any time soon as Lincoln Farms’ trainer Ray Green will now turn him out for a good spell.

“Gelding didn’t agree with him so we’ll give him a good break to strengthen.”

Even though Franco Nandor lasted by a neck in a tight four-way finish with Military Man, Dixie Reign and Suidelike Major, Green said you could see he was weak at the finish.

There’ll be a nice surprise awaiting Fox on his return to New Zealand after he’s completed his two weeks in managed isolation.

Lincoln Farms’ business manager Ian Middleton today dropped round to his wife Anneke the wine and glasses set the horse won.

Fox, who has been invited to play in the US Open from September 17 to 20, has a largely lonely existence ahead of him - “I’ve got three months by myself in a hotel room.”

Fox, who must have his temperature checked every day as a COVID-19 precaution, can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner only with his caddy for the next six weeks, Northern Irishman Chris Selfridge, and he has to confine himself to his own room when not on the golf course or dining.

At least now he can watch a race replay of Franco Nandor winning on www.hrnz.co.nz when he wants a break from playing Assassin’s Creed on Xbox.

Franco Nandor staves off Military Man (yellow harness), Dixie Reign (widest) and Suidelike Major (inner) in a neck, neck and neck finish. PHOTO: Megan Liefting/Race Images.Franco Nandor staves off Military Man (yellow harness), Dixie Reign (widest) and Suidelike Major (inner) in a neck, neck and neck finish. PHOTO: Megan Liefting/Race Images.

Our runners this week: How our trainers rate them

Ray Green

Ray’s comments

Friday night at Cambridge

Race 3: Lincoln Lou
6.39pm

“He’s a beautiful little horse and I’m looking forward to seeing him run. It’s hard to know how good he is, or how far he’ll go, but I guess we’ll find out on Friday. He’s the one to beat from the draw. If he doesn’t win, he won’t be far away.”

Race 5: Commander Lincoln
7.31pm

“I won’t be holding my breath. He tries hard enough but he lacks a bit of high speed.”

Race 8: Onyx Shard
8.55pm

“It’s two and a half months since she last raced, and she didn’t grow as much as I thought she would, but I’m expecting her to go a good race. Her last two trials have been good and she’s pulled up well.”

Race 8: Obadiah Dragon
8.55pm

“He’ll need a good trip from five but he’s not out of it. He went a good race last time at Cambridge and would be as equal a chance as Onxy Shard.”

Race 8: Beaudiene Rocknroll
8.55pm

“It’s heart-in-the-mouth stuff with him until they let them go but he should step away this time. Zac (Butcher) said the gate went particularly slowly before that race and that’s why he got impatient. I thought he did well to recover for third. If he made the front, where he goes best, he’d be hard to beat.”

Race 9: Frisco Bay
9.22pm

“He’s a tidy horse and I’m expecting a big run. We’ve sorted the problem he had with his breathing last season and he’s right in the zone now after a second and a win at the workouts.”

Mark Dux

Mark Dux’s comments

Saturday night at Albion Park

Race 5: Argyle
11.02pm NZ time

“It wouldn’t have mattered where he drew this week, he’s in the money, barring bad luck. He’s going terrific and he gets in so well at the ratings.”

Dan Costello Race Photography