One of the biggest ovations at the 2019 Festival was reserved for Bryony Frost winning this 2m5f chase aboard Frodon. After leading for most of the way, he was briefly headed before asserting close home. The Paul Nicholls trained horse will attempt to retain his crown this year amid some strong opposition.
Frodon has become a Cheltenham specialist in recent seasons having won in his last three appearances at the course. There have suggestions that he could contest the Gold Cup but this distance appears more suitable for the front-running gelding, and he was beaten at Haydock over 3m1f earlier this term.
In his more recent race at Kempton back in January, Frodon beat Keeper Hill by more than a length despite carrying more weight than the runner-up and racing over a right-handed course which is less than ideal. The distance that day was nearly 2m5f and he is priced at 5/1 to retain his title.
Opposition to Frodon is likely to include the Irish pair Min and A Plus Tard. For Min, competing at this distance should be no problem after winning over 2m4f at Punchestown back in December. The Willie Mullins trained horse has often finished second best or worse to Altior in previous outings at Cheltenham, and it was noticeable that he slaughtered the remainder of the field when claiming the 2m4f Melling Chase at Aintree last season. Racing close to the front also suits Min who is offered at 3/1.
Meanwhile, the consistent A Plus Tard won the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at last season’s festival and has never finished outside of the first three places in seven outings for trainer Henry de Bromhead.
He last raced when beating the useful Chacun Pour Soi over 2m1f back in December but has not raced since that day. His more favoured distance seems to be about 2m4f.
It will also be sad that 2018 winner Un de Sceaux will unavailable to race as an injury has enforced his retirement, but English trained horses Riders Onthe Storm and Saint Calvados could both be worthwhile challenger if competing.
The former gelding has won all three races this season but was perhaps fortunate to win his last contest by fourteen lengths when two of his four rivals fell at the last fence. He may have won in any case as he seemed to be travelling best.
As for Saint Calvados, he moved up from the two miles distance when a competitor in a near 2m5f handicap chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. His second finish that day in a very close three-way tussle to the winning post suggests he can probably be more effective over this longer trip with odds of 20/1 offered.