Nicholls relishing Betfair Ascot Chase challenge with Frodon

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Trainer Paul Nicholls is hopeful that Frodon can raise his game to another notch in the £150,000 G1 Betfair Ascot Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

The Ditcheat handler said: “”The owner is away at the moment and there are three meetings on Saturday so we just need to have a look and think about all our riding arrangements.

“I will see what Sam (Twiston-Davies) has elsewhere – it is quite possible that Bryony will ride Frodon (8/1 with Betfair) again – she has ridden him the last twice and they have run really, really well.

“She rides well – she has been given the opportunity to ride some really good horses. She listens and I said before Cheltenham that there was fresh ground, go and walk it. She did and kept on the fresh ground. She is enthusiastic, but most of all the horses run sweetly for her – that is a big thing. She has a lot of good qualities and seems a very good chase jockey.

“Frodon had a great season last season, winning six novices’ chases, and has been running really well this season. He put a fantastic performance the other day at Cheltenham. He is rated 164 after being put up a lot and we really have no choice but to run him in better races like the Betfair Ascot Chase rather than handicaps.

“You don’t see too many horses sprint up the Cheltenham hill like he did and on that ground (heavy) too. That was a handicap and this weekend he goes for a Grade One and he will meet totally different horses. He deserves to take his chance.

“Of the others in the race, Waiting Patiently (11/4) and Top Notch (9/4 favourite) are very good, while Cue Card (7/1) is running and the horse from Ireland, Coney Island (5/2), beat one of ours (Adrien Du Pont) the other day. It is a hell of a good race and we just have to hope that Frodon is still progressing and the Cheltenham victory was not a fluke. He jumps and travels very well and is in really good form.

“I would not be afraid to go back to three miles on better ground. He is only just turned six so he will get progressively stronger – he can keep improving. For a small horse, he jumps really, really well.

“I was slightly concerned before Cheltenham that the ground may have been too soft for him, but it did not seem to make any difference to him. He is quite versatile on ground and tough.”

“You only really target these races if you have a horse good enough, but we’ve had three good winners of the race (Rockforce 2000; Kauto Star 2008 and Silviniaco Conti 2016) and with Frodon, we’ve had to go for the race because of his new mark.”
Bryony Frost added today: “Who knows if Frodon can step up to a G1 successfully? We are testing the waters and asking bigger questions. Can he answer them? Saturday will tell – it is as simple as that.

“He was impressive at Cheltenham, you cannot ignore him for that, he jumps and he travels.

“He was top-weight and it was soft ground. He is talented and had already shown that. We took 5lb of his back, we had a dream run and he jumped perfectly and he was the only one galloping.”

Ante-post favourite Top Notch heads seven five-day confirmations for 2m 5f contest.

Top Notch (Nicky Henderson) has won his last two starts in great style, including over the course and distance in the G2 Christy 1965 Chase in November, and tops Betfair’s market at 9/4.

Irish challenger Coney Island (Eddie Harty IRE, 5/2 with Betfair), a G1-winning novice over fences last season, created a big impression at Ascot on his comeback when taking the Sodexo Graduation Chase by nine lengths on December 23.

Waiting Patiently (Ruth Jefferson, 11/4) is another likely improver, having won five from five over fences so far. He comes into the race on the back of a decisive eight-length success over Art Mauresque in a Listed chase at Kempton Park on January 13.

Cue Card (Colin Tizzard, 7/1) is bidding to become the first three-time winner of the Betfair Ascot Chase. The popular 12-year-old, who landed the spoils in 2013 and 2017, has not raced since finishing second in the G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on November 25.

The confirmations are completed by Speredek (Nigel Hawke, 25/1), who was second behind Un De Sceaux in the G1 Clarence House Chase over two miles and a furlong at Ascot last month, and Traffic Fluide (Gary Moore, 50/1).


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