Cheltenham Festival News

Paul Nicholls: Gold Cup contender Frodon "is right up there with the best"

Tue 2 Mar 2021

By Graham Clark

Paul Nicholls hopes Frodon can continue his remarkable journey by writing his name into Cheltenham Festival folklore and provide his owner Paul Vogt with a poignant success in the WellChild Gold Cup.

The ultra-tough nine year old will attempt to give the 11-times champion trainer a record equalling fifth win (alongside Arkle’s trainer Tom Dreaper) in the prestigious Grade One prize on March 19th and his first since the mighty Kauto Star claimed the second of his two victories in the race in 2009.

Having carried top weight to glory in a handicap chase at Cheltenham on his return to action in October, Frodon failed to fire in the Grade Two Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, before bouncing back in spectacular fashion to claim the Grade One Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

Frodon, who landed the 2019 Ryanair Chase at The Festival™ supporting WellChild, will have to take another step forward if he is to win Jump racing’s Blue Riband race and record a seventh course success, but Nicholls claims he would not be surprised if he was up to the challenge.

Watch how Frodon landed the King George VI Chase

He said: “We’ve been very lucky to win it four times with Kauto Star, Denman and See More Business. It’s been a fantastic race and I’d love to win it again.

“I know his owner Paul, who sadly lost his wife Ruth recently, is really proud. It would be a massive boost if he ran well. He would be a mighty proud man just to have runner in the Gold Cup.

“He has been in racing a long, long time and to just have a chance in the Gold Cup will mean an awful lot to him and his family.

“He is the sort of horse that no one will expect to win the Gold Cup but if he did it wouldn’t be a surprise. No one expected him to win a King George, but he keeps surprising people.

“He was always a decent horse but I never envisaged him being quite to this level. His first couple of years he ran some good races and he won the Victor Ludorum over hurdles. He flattened off but then he found some extra form and strength.

“He just took a while to mature, that was the thing. When he got to full maturity he kept on improving. He has come a long way. He has surprised me to be honest with you.”

Victory for Frodon, who took part in a racecourse gallop at Wincanton today, would also see his regular rider Bryony Frost become the first female jockey in history to win the race, and Nicholls admits that her presence is paramount to the gelding’s chances of glory.

He said: “They are a match made in heaven and they do get on particularly well. She and Frodon have gone a long way and there is definitely a rapport between them. You wouldn’t want her not being on him. She knows him well.

“She was saying this morning how much of a turn of foot he has got. It’s the biggest race he will ever run in his life and he deserves to be there.”

The dream team - Bryony Frost and Frodon!

Frodon may be among this season’s leading Gold Cup contenders, but it wasn’t until the current campaign that Nicholls was ppersuaded to go down such a route.

He said: “We ran him in last year’s Ryanair and he was completely outpaced all the way. We decided this year we would stay over a longer trip.

“We were debating a couple of years ago (going for the Gold Cup). When he won the Cotswold Chase (2019) that gave me the idea one day he could run in it.

“Paul (Vogt) has always wanted to have a runner in the Gold Cup which hopefully he is going to have this year. He is going to be a bit more of a livelier runner than we thought.

“At the start of the season he won that handicap at Cheltenham off top weight. That was a huge run and huge effort and I thought this is the season to do it (go for the Gold Cup). He is right up there with the best.

“He loves the track and we are hopeful of a good run. He is always underestimated. He always gives a good account of himself and you can never rule him in or out.”

Though Frodon has adopted front-running tactics for the majority of his victories Nicholls feels that he does not have to force the pace to be effective.

He said: “It suits him to make the running but he doesn’t have to make the running. When he has won some of those good handicaps at Cheltenham earlier on, especially over a shorter trip he got better the quicker they went - he got a bit of a lead and that suited him. He jumps his way into the race. You can ride him how you find him.

“If the ground is better some of those horses that are a little bit more one-paced struggle a little bit. This horse has got plenty of boot and he can dictate things a bit. The ground helps him tactically. He doesn’t have to make the running but he loves being forwards anyway.”

Assessing the opposition, Nicholls expects the toughest challenge to come from the Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo, who is seeking to join the likes of Best Mate and Arkle by claiming a hat-trick of victories in the race.

He added: “Al Boum Photo is the horse to beat, without a shadow of a doubt as he is the class act. After that it is much of a muchness. A lot of the horses have beaten each other. We beat Santini in the King George and he is a shorter price than us in the Gold Cup which is something I don’t quite get.

“Frodon is always underestimated a little bit but believe me he will give a good account of himself. We are glad to be in there and proud the horse has got to this point. We are really looking forward to him running.”

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