Ruby Walsh and Mick Fitzgerald have praised the performance of Frodon, who is now a Cheltenham Gold Cup prospect after a brilliant jumping display saw him win the Matchbook Handicap Chase on Saturday.
Paul Nicholls’ 9-2 shot carried top-weight but led from start to finish under Bryony Frost and saw off the challenge of West Approach and Harry Cobden, despite giving away 17lbs.
Speaking on the latest episode of Paddy Power’s twice-weekly From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Mick believes there is even more to come from the eight-year-old.
“It was a shame there wasn’t a crowd at Cheltenham to appreciate it,” he said. “I know Bryony gets plenty of stick, but one thing she has got is a great connection with that horse.
“He never missed a beat all the way round. When you ride horses at Cheltenham, if you can ride one that makes half a length at every obstacle, the rest of them are always playing catch-up and that was certainly the case on Saturday.
“West Approach was in behind Frodon – Ruby has actually ridden that horse – and you just wondered how much he was actually going to find, but Bryony had saved plenty and it was a fantastic performance. Particularly because Paul Nicholls had said to us in the morning that he didn’t have the horse fully wound up for this race.”
It was a sixth victory at Cheltenham for Frodon, who will be aimed at the Festival next March.
A brilliant performance from Frodon as he wins the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase!
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) October 24, 2020
Ruby was very impressed with Frost’s tactical nous during Saturday’s race, but had a word of warning for those excited by Frodon’s chances in the Gold Cup.
“It’s not the actual weight that the horse is carrying that is a problem,” he said. “Horses in the Gold Cup will carry the very same weight – 11st 12lbs. It’s not the physical weight they’re carrying, but it is how much weight they’re giving away.
“We keep saying it was a great weight-carrying performance, but he didn’t carry 14st round. He carried 11st 12lbs, which is top weight in most races, but how much he’s giving away is the key to it.
“West Approach had 10st 9lbs, but I think Bryony did more than just ride her own horse. She stacked the race up behind her all the way from the top of the hill, slowing them down. West Approach had to come at tiring horses, but she filled Frodon up all the way from the top of the hill and kicked off the bend. She didn’t get a brilliant jump at the second-last but he was very quick and she won the sprint from there home.
“I thought it was a really good, tactical ride from her but that kind of race really suits Frodon.
“He has the pace, being a Grade 1-winning two-and-a-half-miler, to dictate two three-mile handicappers. He’s always going to gear slower than he needs to be going and they’re going to be at their maximum, so he’s able to sprint away from them. In against better horses, he won’t be able to do that.
“He loves to dominate and he loves to be in control, but when you get into Grade 1 horses and you face down the hill in the Gold Cup with Lostintranslation, Al Boum Photo and Santini all queuing up behind you, they’re not going to give it to you as easily. It was a really good performance at the weekend, but I think we’ve all got slightly carried away with what he achieved.”
Kevin Manning still going strong
Meanwhile, legendary trainer Jim Bolger had a successful weekend as Mac Swiney won the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster under Kevin Manning.
Both Mick and Ruby were astounded by the display from the 53-year-old jockey, who is still in peak condition despite nearly 30 years in the saddle.
“Jim Bolger made a brave call to name Mac Swiney [in the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes on Saturday] and land a Group 1, but the highlight of it for me was Kevin Manning,” said Ruby.
“At 53 years of age, to show his fitness, skill and hunger for the job – I think that’s incredible.
“He’s been my Derby horse since he first went to the races” – Jim Bolger on Mac Swiney, and why he was named after the iconic Cork man who passed away 100 years ago tomorrow… @skysportsAlexH pic.twitter.com/EVvaChwsFH
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) October 24, 2020
“In so many walks of life, you hear ‘oh he’s too old’ but for people to watch a 53-year-old like Kevin Manning do what he did on Saturday was spectacular.”
Mick added: “All you have to do is stand alongside Kevin Manning to see how fit he is, but I don’t know how he’s done it for so long.
“He’s so tall, there’s not a morsel of fat on him and to maintain your body in that sort of shape for a prolonged period takes some dedication and it takes some will. I take my hat off to him.”
*Odds quoted on the widget are ante-post prices which means that if your selection does not run in the Gold Cup – for whatever reason – you will lose your stake under traditional ante-post rules.
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