Frost Returns to Cheltenham
Not for the first time I find myself praising the riding skills of Bryony Frost as she steered Frodon to victory in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup on Saturday.
It’s a long time since I have seen a Cheltenham meeting runs in such gloomy conditions, but Frodon’s win did add some brightness to the day. It always helps if you backed them, but there is no doubt the horse and jockey are a perfect fit and produced a magnificent performance of jumping.
Frodon is one of those horses that seems to have been around for years, but he is actually only a 6-year-old. He really likes Cheltenham though, this was his third win at the course, and prior to Saturday his two best RPR’s had come here. From the off he was either in the lead or upsides, and jumped and travelled better than his 11 rivals. A fantastic leap two from home sealed the race for him.
Runner-up Cepage put in a great performance for Venetia Williams, but made a mistake two out just as the winner put in a great jump. He still finished well clear of the third, and was closing on the winner at the line. He will go up for this run, but should remain competitive in these types of race.
Guitar Pete seemed to be outpaced four out. He couldn’t get to the leaders after that but stayed on well. You can see why his trainer, Nicky Richards, is thinking of stepping the 8-year-old up to 3m.
Baron Alco , had just prevailed over Frodon in the BetVictor Gold Cup at the previous meeting. He couldn’t get into the same jumping rhythm on Saturday with Frodon being ridden more prominently. He wasn’t disgraced in finishing 4 th.
The one disappointment of the race was the well-backed ante post Rather Be. He had fallen four out in the BetVictor Gold Cup and was expected to go close with a clear round. He was struggling to keep up with the leaders from halfway and was never competitive.
Mr Medic , whose best form had come at Ascot, showed going left handed wasn’t a problem for him. He was travelling as well as the winner coming to four out but he made a race-ending mistake there, and jockey James Best did really well to maintain the partnership. He’s not one to give up just yet and we now know he acts this way around.
In truth, few really got into the race due to the winners’ jumping. It was a tremendous weight-carrying performance off 11-12 and an official rating of 164.
After the race trainer Paul Nicholls indicated that Frodon would be aimed at the Ryanair Chase back here at the Festival. On the evidence of this performance he must have a good chance in the Ryanair, although he didn’t perform well in graded company earlier this year. Of more concern though could be his record in the spring – 0 wins from 5 runs 0 places in March and April. Is he just a better horse in the first half of the season before his form tails off? We will find out in March.
This week’s horse for the tracker is the Colin Tizzard trained Rockpoint. The 5-year-old came into Saturday’s Cheltenham 3m Grade 2 Novices Hurdle – 0 wins from 9 runs over hurdles – eight of those runs had come between 2m & 2m 3 ½ f. In truth he had looked moderate at those shorter distances.
The gelding put in a career best when runner-up on his first run at 3m at Newbury 15 days earlier, and improved on that with a win here. Always up with the pace, he jumped soundly and stayed on well all the way to the line to win by 2 ¾ lengths. He stays 3m really well, and looks capable of more improvement over these marathon trips.
He got some generous quotes, given he looked the right sort for the race at the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle back here in March, and can still be backed at 25/1 with William Hill, which looks decent value to me. Trainer Colin Tizzard won this year’s race with a 33/1 shot, so he knows the type of horse needed for that stamina test.
Saturday Big Race Preview
Trend was our friend in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup as I mentioned in last Monday’s column
“It could also pay to look out for runners carrying 10-2 or less, starting 16/1 & under and aged 4 to 8. Runners with those three traits have produced 3 winners from 8 runners + 19.5 4 placed.
All Paul Nicholls four winners had the following traits:
Age: 4yo to 7yo
Odds: 16/1 & under
Distance Move: Up ½ f
Last Race Track: Cheltenham
Producing 4 winners from 9 runners 44% +36 5 placed”
Those two trends produced the winner and the third home in Saturday’s big race.
This weekend’s big betting race is the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Ascot, and it’s that race that provides this weekend’s big race trends.
Ascot – Saturday 22nd December
3:35 – Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – 1m 7 ½ f
The 2009 & 2010 renewals of the race were cancelled due to snow, so on this occasion I am just using the last eight years of trends.
The results below contain – 8 winners from 132 runners 34 placed.
Age: 5yo & 6yo’s – 5 winners from 61 runners 13 placed
Odds SP: 7/1 to 14/1 – 7 winners from 50 runners 15 placed
Last Time Out Placing: Top 4 – 8 winners from 87 runners 23 placed
Runs In Last 90 Days: 0 to 2 – 8 winners from 105 runners 26 placed
Runs In Handicap Hurdles: 2 to 4 – 7 winners from 52 runners +35 16 placed
Gordon Elliott – 2 winners from 5 runners 40% +36 3 placed 60%
Ollie Murphy – 1 winner from 1 runner 100% +9
Harry Fry – 1 winner from 5 runners 20% -0.5 2 placed 40%
Dan Skelton- 1 winners from 6 runners 17% +2 2 placed 33%
Philip Hobbs – 1 winner from 4 runners 25% +1.5
Alan King – 1 winner from 5 runners 20% +8
Nicky Henderson – 1 winner from 14 runners 7% -1 4 placed 29%
Paul Nicholls – 0 winners from 11 runners -11 3 placed 27%
David Pipe – 0 winners from 11 runners -11 1 placed 9%
Early ante-post favourite for the race is last year’s winner Hunter’s Call (9/1), trained by Ollie Murphy. This would be the 8-year-old’s first run for 12 months. Ollie Murphy has also entered Fiesole (14/1). A new recruit to the yard, he has a similar profile to last year’s winner. The 6-year-old was a decisive winner of a Tipperary handicap hurdle on the last run for his previous trainer. The handicapper has put him up 21lb for that win, but who’s to say he won’t be able to win again.
Second on the ante-post list is the 2015 winner of the race Jolly’s Cracked It (10/1) who returned from a 706-day absence to win over C&D last month.
Fidux (12/1) has won his last two starts since returning from a short summer break. The last of those wins came over C&D 49 days ago. He’s 10lb higher now, but the 5-year-old is an improving hurdler on a sound surface and the runner-up won a valuable Newbury handicap hurdle on his last start. Alan King has entered Lisp (14/1) who was runner-up in the Gerry Fielden Hurdle at Newbury on his last start. Four-year olds won the race in 2012 & 2015. Unlike his stablemate, he would probably prefer plenty of ease underfoot.
Mr Antolini (14/1), winner of the Imperial Cup at Sandown back in March. The 8-year-old is well suited to a strongly-run big field handicap hurdle, and has been knocking on the door on his last two starts.
The Philip Hobbs trained Crooks Peak (4/1) is an improving novice hurdler, who won his last two starts and should be suited by the stronger pace of a big field.
The class of the race is top-weight Call Me Lord (20/1). The 5-year-old was a progressive hurdler last season between 2m & 2m 5 ½ f. He ended last season with a win in a Sandown Grade 2 Hurdle. He has to go right-handed and needs juice in the ground. If he was to take his chance, he would have each way claims.
This Weeks Key Stats
Here are some trainer stats that are worth noting should they have runners at certain tracks this week:
Rebecca Curtis (chases) – 13 winners from 36 runners 36% +30.40
Sue Smith (chases) – 19 winners from 36 runners 50% +58.92
Kim Bailey (NHF) – 6 winners from 13 runners 46% +16.78
Harry Fry (chases) – 7 winners from 17 runners 41% +4.54
Warren Greatrex (NHF) – 10 winners from 19 runners 53% +19.13
Friday & Saturday
Harry Fry (non-handicap hurdles) – 10 winners from 20 runners 50% +12
That’s me done for two weeks, as I will be on
Happy Christmas to all our Race Advisor punters!
All the best,
for The Race Advisor