Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Hero Frodon Takes Aim at Ryanair Chase

Frodon is trained by Paul Nicholls (left)” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by ballymorebugle
Paul Nicholls is the joint-most-successful trainer in the relatively short history of the Ryanair Chase t the Cheltenham Festival.  Horse race bettors can read the matchbook review before getting great odds on Paul Nicholls’ horses at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

The Ditcheat handler has confirmed he will target last season’s fifth Frodon at the valuable 2m 5f contest again after the six-year-old gelding landed the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup off topweight as reported here:

Both Frodon and former UK champion jumps trainer Nicholls have struck up a great partnership with Bryony Frost – daughter of one-time Grand National-winning rider Jimmy.

Connections kept faith with now ex-conditional jockey Frost despite her riding out her claim shortly before Frodon’s second run of the season when he chased home Baron Alco in the BetVictor Gold Cup at the November Meeting at Cheltenham.

Frodon was again a frontrunner in the Caspian Caviar, jumping and traveling well to make most and hold on gamely up the Cheltenham hill scoring by 1 1/4 lengths from Cepage.

The British handicapper will thus have to put his official rating up again. Frodon was already back on a career-high mark over fences, so his future now lies outside of handicaps.

Hanging tough in that elite company has been something for a challenge for the horse in the past, but he is clearly improving if winning graded handicap chases carrying heavy loads.

Frodon was third in both the Grade 2 1965 Chase and Grade 1 Ascot Chase last season, although it's worth remembering the Berkshire racetrack is not run counterclockwise like Cheltenham.

He was also a distant fifth – and last to finish – in the Ryanair Chase of 2018, but is still a young chaser and relatively experienced over fences for a horse of his age.

The horses that finished in front of Frodon that day haven’t done a great deal to advertise the form since, so he could shape far better if having a lighter campaign.

Bookmakers are taking no chances with Frodon either. His 2019 Ryanair Chase odds have been slashed into 12/1 over on, and that makes him the leading British contender for the race heading into Christmas.

If he lines up in this big race at Cheltenham on Thursday, March 14, then Frodon will be a perfect fit for the popular age profile of recent winners.

He turns seven on January 1, and four of the last six Ryanair Chase winners have been that age when landing the prize.

The only snag is that a number of National Hunt horses on both sides of the Irish Sea could target this race instead of the Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles.

That is because Altior, who is unbeaten in 10 starts over fences, is already a strong favorite with oddsmakers to retain his crown for Nicholls' longtime rival Nicky Henderson.

Seven Barrows handler Henderson has pipped Nicholls to the British jumps trainers’ title in the last couple of seasons, so the business end of the campaign always sees them go head-to-head like this:

It leaves the Ryanair looking far more open and plenty of Irish raiders look likely to swerve Altior in favour of this alternative race.

The last three winners of Frodon’s Festival targets have been Irish trained, but he has already proven himself to be a plucky and popular horse that cannot be counted out.