Frodon and Bryony Frost held off Galvin in a thrilling finish to the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
The first Grade One chase of the new National Hunt season was good enough to grace any of the spring festivals, with all five runners having tasted success at the Cheltenham Festival in the past.
Joining King George winner Frodon was last year’s Gold Cup scorer Minella Indo, as well as dual Grade One winner Delta Work and Galvin, winner of his last six.
Frodon adopted his usual front-running role and put in some prodigious leaps, but Rachael Blackmore was keen not to let Paul Nicholls’ charge get too far ahead on Minella Indo.
The Gordon Elliott trio of Delta Work, Galvin and Ravenhill filled the last three places in the first half of the race, with Ravenhill struggling to keep up.
With five fences still to jump, Frodon’s accurate fencing was putting Minella Indo under pressure but Blackmore nudged her mount to get closer, while Galvin and Delta Work were creeping into it.
As they turned down the hill Frost kicked on, but they were lining up behind her and all three looked huge threats.
Delta Work was the first to crack, but Frodon still had to see off Minella Indo and Galvin.
Minella Indo’s lack of a run then began to tell but Galvin joined Frodon jumping the last two and the pair produced a real thriller.
It was Frodon who prevailed, though, by three-quarters of a length.
Betfair cut Frodon to 5-1 from 12s to retain his King George crown.
Frost, riding in her first race as a professional in Ireland, said: “What more can you say about him? That was tough. The uncertainty of where we were going out there and he was having a good look around.
“I always preach about his determination and that it is infectious and that you can beat anyone when you are on him, but you really can because he believes he can.
“The feeling that when you think you are beaten the world swallows you up. Have you gone too hard on him? Have I got any legs left? You give everything to him and you see if there is anything left as we need it now. He answers you because he wants to.
“What is that, 18 races he has won in his lifetime? It’s just phenomenal. Testimony to Paul (Nicholls) to have a horse coming out every season, again and again, with the same enthusiasm. It is exactly what he is a master of.
“How cool is it to be a jockey that has added to that record (in this race)?
“It’s a great track – a big, galloping track. The ground is a bit tacky. The fences are alone and the inside is a lonely place with not many rails, so you need an honest horse. He goes slightly left as well and there was a couple I got in tight. I think that was just him trying to work it out.
“It took me halfway around to realise ‘ah yes Bryony, sit still and let him do it’.”
On the pace of the race, she said: “Over with us, that’s kind of how are races are ridden. We don’t hang about in a lot of our big races.
“I spoke to dad (Grand National winner Jimmy Frost) this morning and I have watched a lot of Irish racing and we could keep it fairly steady and quicken massively.
“I felt my asset is my jumping (though) and I knew I was 110 per cent fit. I had done a good piece of work on him and Holly, who rides him every day, says he is a million dollars, so I had to believe in him.
“Doesn’t he just improve every time?”
Speaking from Wetherby, Nicholls said: “That was fantastic watching that. What a gutsy horse. They jumped the last together and he stayed on to beat the Gold Cup winner and Galvin, it’s probably one of his best runs.
“It just shows that three miles on a track like that suits him so well, I’m so proud of him. It was a great ride from Bryony. We had a plan.
“He has to be at his best first time out to produce a run like that, so it’s a credit to the team at home. It was a great performance and it just shows what a good horse he is.
“He’ll go straight to Kempton and (stablemate) Clan’s (Des Obeaux) going to go there, so it’ll be an interesting clash.”
Henry de Bromhead expects Minella Indo to come on a good deal for his first outing of the season after finishing just over five lengths back in third.
“We all love to win but fair play to Frodon, he was brilliant on the day,” said De Bromhead.
“We were very happy with the run, he’ll come on plenty. We’ll see where we go next. He took a couple of blows so he will come on plenty.”
Elliott was pleased with his runners, with Jamie Codd replacing the injured Davy Russell.
“I thought Delta Work ran very well. Everybody knows he is a bit rusty first time out. We might take the hood off him next day but very happy with the way he ran,” said Elliott.
“Galvin, what a little horse. He ran his heart out but all credit to the winner, he was very good.
“I don’t think Jamie (Codd) did anything wrong on Galvin. He gave him a wonderful ride.
“I’m not sure if Davy (Russell) will ride tomorrow in Cork, but I’d say he won’t be long out.”