Frodon and Bryony Frost sprang a 20-1 shock to win the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
Frodon, previously successful under Frost at this Grade One level when they won the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year, was delivering a 12th victory in the Boxing Day showpiece for trainer Paul Nicholls.
To do so, they had to see off three better-fancied stablemates in Clan Des Obeaux – seeking his King George hat-trick – Cyrname and Real Steel.
Frost dictated a steady pace throughout – and as her rivals dropped away one by one, they repelled the field from the front to win by two and a quarter lengths and six lengths from Waiting Patiently and 85-40 favourite Clan Des Obeaux.
Frost and Frodon had been beaten more than 80 lengths in their last race at the start of this month – when, to the brilliant jumper’s detriment, several fences were omitted because of a low sun at Aintree.
The eight-year-old was back in his element here, however – and so too Frost.
On pulling up, she told ITV Racing: “We’ve just won the King George!
“I have had the absolute best time going round there on him.
“The dark days, the hard words you get thrown at you, to gallop round there with him – he has just smashed everybody’s expectations.
“He’s gone round a track that’s the wrong way for him, always giving away ground a little bit at his fences.
“I got some amazing jumps from him. He’s what you dream of as a little girl – absolutely epic.”
Nicholls said: “He didn’t perform at Aintree the other day when the fences were taken out. He took the mickey out of us. I’ve done a lot with him since that day. I’ve been hard on him and he thrives on that.
“Obviously no one expected that, but he’s a very good horse. He’s always saved his best until now for Cheltenham.
“He’s one of those horses you can never underestimate. He’s tough and he’s genuine. He likes a battle and he’s beaten some good horses there fair and square.
“Turning in I thought he’d win. He had his ears pricked. He keeps finding and I thought then he’d be hard to beat.”
The Ditcheat trainer went on: “They went a right gallop and Bryony gave him a very good ride. I spoke to her last night and told her to go flat out over the first mile, then try to fill his lungs up and though two or three might go by you that is the way to ride him and the plan worked.
“That form puts him right in the Gold Cup picture because he loves Cheltenham. He’s better there than anywhere.
“The horses he has beaten here today means he is in the mix because he loves Cheltenham.
“A wonderful performance and wonderful to win the race again, even if it was a surprise. It’s nice to win the King George with another horse.
“Clan Des Obeaux ran a bit flat. We all make mistakes and the biggest mistake I made this season was to run him in the Betfair Chase. It got right to the bottom of him. Perhaps Haydock didn’t help him too much.
“I think Cyrname got behind and sulked a little bit. We have to review what we do with him. Both those horses had a great prep and I can’t offer any excuses.
“The only place you’d see Frodon run before Cheltenham would be the Denman Chase. I won’t give him a hard race in the Cotswold Chase. He can go fresh to Cheltenham, it would suit him well.
“Clan Des Obeaux won’t go to Cheltenham. I’ll find something else for him. I might run him at Punchestown or Aintree. He’s good fresh.
“It’s back to the drawing board with Cyrname. Real Steel will go down the Ryanair route. He’s not a three-miler.”
Nicholls added of Frost: “Bryony is good for the sport, like Hollie (Doyle) is good for the Flat. She rides very well and rides big winners.
“She’s unflappable and listens. We spoke for about an hour on the phone last night.”
North Yorkshire trainer Ruth Jefferson was left with mixed emotions following the fine effort of Waiting Patiently, who was having his first run since last year’s Tingle Creek Chase.
It was also only a second start at three miles, after unseating Brian Hughes in this race in 2018.
Jefferson said: “It’s a hard race to weigh up. He started off a bit keen, then he raced a bit lazily, then he looked outpaced, then he looked like he made ground up effortlessly and then he stayed on like a train up the straight.
“He definitely got the trip. I don’t know what to think, as it is great and fabulous and all those things, but slightly gutting at the same time. I’m getting good at getting placed in Grade Ones.
“He is not a difficult horse to get fit, he is just a difficult horse to keep sound. He ran an absolute blinder, he just couldn’t quite peg the winner back.
“I don’t know (if he is a Gold Cup horse). To be honest we will have to get him home and make sure he is all right. He has won a Grade One and you would like him to win another one, as he has finished third in a Tingle Creek and King George.
“What more can you ask from the horse?”