Frodon 169 and Improving

When Frodon beat Shantou Flyer by 17 lengths in the Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase (Grade 3) on Cheltenham Trials day, he made such a mockery of the handicap that he should have been raised to a mark of 169. The second, third, fourth and fifth were only separated by 4 lengths which suggests that they were fairly accurately treated by the handicapper and the fourth placed, Coo Star Sivola, even went on to win the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, off of seven pounds higher. Frodon’s next three runs were so disappointing at the highest level that it may have looked like a freak result.
  However, the Nickname gelding would return to that high level of form on his seasonal debut in the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree, when winning the competitive handicap by a length and a quarter to 149 rated Javert to again run to 169. It was at this point that I believed that there was no fluke to his Cheltenham win and put his subsequent poor form down to age – he is still only six. He was beaten into second off of 161 in the BetVictor Gold Cup but only by two lengths to a well treated horse and with Guitar Pete (second on 137), Mister Whitaker (third, 152) and Eamon An Cnoic (fourth, 135) separated by less than a length, then the 8 lengths gap behind Frodon again puts him on 169.
  He was a good thing – in my opinion – to win a second Caspian Caviar Gold Cup on Saturday off of a mark of 164 and around his favorite course and distance (Cheltenham’s New Course over two and a half miles). Beating Cepage (143) by almost two lengths puts him on 168 in very difficult, windy conditions – some riders describing as the worst they have ridden in. 
  The simplicity in finding his high 160’s rating is down to his competing in handicaps but the frequency of it in 2018 makes it very reliable and the suggestion that he is improving is a nonsense unless it is attributed to his consistency and this could be through his coming of age. There would be few horses that will contest the Ryanair Chase in March that would be higher rated than Frodon and the race is contested on Cheltenham’s New Course over two and a half miles which makes the 14/1 available on the horse, looking very generous. 
  Frodon was my ‘horse to follow’ for 2018-19 before the season started and I mention this in a previous article in the offthebridle.org blog. The proof of my earlier finding of his ability in January is now consistent on each of his three starts this season which puts him firmly in mind for the Ryanair. Of the horses ahead of him in the betting, only Balko des Flos and Min rate higher and Un de Sceaux to parity. I have Balko on 173 but he has been running motherless since winning the race on his starts so far this season. Also, he looks like he’s being trained for the Gold Cup this season. Min, however, looked every inch a major player when winning the John Durkan Chase but he’s only a couple of pounds higher than Frodon through my calculations and that figure was over two miles. In fact, Min only got 166 in winning the Durkan. Un de Sceaux is as admirable as Frodon with his courage, exuberance and never say die attitude but he’s four years his senior and despite his usual courage being on display last weekend in the Tingle Creek behind Altior, he will be eleven by the time the Ryanair comes around.
  I mentioned in the same previous article that Frodon would be a live contender for the King George but I feel there might be one or two better suited to the race and of a higher level of ability, including the last two winners Might Bite and Thistlecrack. Therefore, with the likelihood of him sticking to two and a half miles, the ante post price of 14/1 on the Paul Nicholls trained gelding to win the Ryanair Chase for his brilliant trainer, looks very good value to take a chance with. I would be shocked if the handicapper doesn’t at last find him a 169 horse on Monday.

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