Frodon showed all his finest attributes and had the perfect partner in Bryony Frost, as the pair repelled all challengers to win the Grade One Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
A field of twelve lined-up for this two-mile, four and a half furlongs contest.
As the race got underway, it was Frodon and Bryony Frost who went straight into the lead from Sub Lieutenant, with Monalee third and then Road To Respect and Terrefort.
Frodon continued to swing along with Sub Lieutenant for company and this pair raced three lengths clear of Monalee and Aso.
Racing down the home straight, the pack closed, but Cheltenham specialist Frodon still led as they left the stands and headed out with a circuit to run.
At the first down the back, Charbel made a bad error and he and The Storyteller were under pressure.
Frodon continued to go well, with Sub Lieutenant under a drive to keep up, then came Monalee, Road To Respect Aso and last year’s winner Balko Des Flos.
Heading to the top of the hill, with four to jump, Frodon was joined by Aso, as Sub Lieutenant quickly dropped away. The leaders were tracked by Road To Respect, Monalee and Un De Sceaux, while Footpad moved closer.
Heading to the home turn, it was still Frodon, with Aso under pressure and Un De Sceaux closing to the inside.
Two out and Frodon and Aso landed in front of Road To Respect.
But the front pair continued to repel their rivals and landed together at the last.
In a titanic battle, Frodon found more for Bryony Frost to win another memorable Cheltenham contest, seeing off Aso with an abundance of guts.
At the line the winning margin was growing, with Aso
a magnificent second. The cream of the Irish could just never get in a blow and it was Road To Respect who claimed third, ahead of Monalee.
Paul Nicholls had a decision to make after Frodon had won the Cotswold Chase in January. He appeared to be on course for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but as the Cheltenham Festival approached, Paul Nicholls decided that in the ground conditions, the Ryanair was the better option. How right he was.
Wiping away tears, Frost said: “Frodon has got his day. He is Pegasus, he has wings, and he is the most incredible battler. He travelled and by God he jumps. When he got overtaken two out, most horses would quit, but he grabbed me by the hands and said ‘don’t you dare give up, don’t you dare not send me into the last, I want this more than you, now come on!’
“He is the perfection of determination. Look at what he has done there and tell me he does not love racing. He is unbelievable. The dream he has just made come true for me is just incredible. He deserves every single pat, carrot and polo. This is his day.”
She added: “What can I say about that. Honestly out there we were just in synch. Literally pour heartbeats were probably together, and every time I needed him to come up a bit longer and take a bit more of a chance with a fence, just to keep him there for me, just to give him those moments and have those few breathers he was brave.
“We had to be brave. Every time he’s won, he’s won by being the bravest. He grabs a hold and he tells you to give it to him. Down to the last we were beat. Two out he was headed and that horse (Aso) was going better than us for a minute, but he would not believe it.
“He would not lie down. It’s a lesson for us. Sometimes you might go down but you’ve got to get up and get going again, and at the last he was just magic. Then when he got to the front he did his usual and just looked up at the crowd and made sure he took it in. Just like I did.
“It was just incredible. I can’t explain how much I love that horse.”
Ditcheat handler Nicholls was recording his third victory in the Ryanair Chase following the wins of Thisthatandtoher (2005) and Taranis (2007), thereby becoming the winning-most trainer in the history of the event.
He was also registering his 45th victory at the Cheltenham Festival overall and second win of the week after Topofthegame captured yesterday’s RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase.
The winning trainer said: “That is one of the best days ever. Frodon is a brilliant horse.
“That was awesome – I lost my voice a bit! It hasn’t been easy to get him right and I knew he had to be 120 per cent.
“In the middle of last week, me and Clifford felt that we were a gallop short, so we took him to Wincanton on Friday and let him have a mile and a half with Pic D’Orhy, just to put the finishing touches to him.
“I said to Bryony that there was no point getting in behind – make all, keep saving a fraction and use that kick just once from the back of the last. That was brilliant.
“He has massively improved, like a lot of the young horses this year, and we worked out how to get him at his very best today. It’s a brilliant, brilliant team effort.
“The decision to go for this race wasn’t difficult in the end with the ground. The good thing is, to win this race, you need something that stays three miles and he got the three. That was perfect and we might look at something different next year.
“Bryony deserves it, everyone in the team deserves it and, most of all, the horse deserves it. He is just the most amazing horse you ever want to train. He is not very big and it is a very, very special day.”
Charlie Deutsch was within touching distance of a first victory at the Cheltenham Festival.
Nine-year-old Aso, trained by Venetia Williams, finished a length and a quarter behind Frodon.
Deutsch said: “After the last I did think I had won it. I’m just frustrated, really, because we’d passed Frodon and he’s done nothing wrong, he’s run to the line. He’s run a brilliant race.
“We’ve come second to Frodon before, which is a bit frustrating, but his jumping was superb. He’s got so much ability. But I’m pleased for Bryony.
“I feel it all went how I wanted it to go; I was a bit trapped down the inner but it didn’t matter because we were flat out all the way and we haven’t missed a fence.”
Williams said: “We are just so thrilled with the horse. He jumped magnificently and it was a really strong race this year. I spent all last week trying to suggest the owners might like to run Frodon in the Gold Cup instead!”
Road To Respect, was third home and pleased connections with his run, despite their disappointment at their placing.
Trainer Noel Meade, said: “He ran well. We are obviously disappointed, without any doubt.
“He ran well but made a mistake three out which didn’t help. I can’t say that it made the difference but it put us under pressure earlier than I thought.
“Other than that everything went reasonably well.
“I haven’t given it a lot of thought but Liverpool might be a possibility and there is a two and a half-mile race at Fairyhouse which could be a possibility and Punchestown is a possibility.
“We will see how he is when we get home.”
Sean Flanagan, jockey, added: “We have gone a nice consistent gallop, I have travelled and jumped really well.
“I thought I was holding every chance when I made a shuddering mistake at the third last, and it took me a while to get back going. I was only beaten a short distance at the end. I am not saying I would have won, but it was definitely a fairly big mistake.
“He has run a blinder and I am really happy with him.”