PJA pledges to protect interests of all members

The Professional Jockeys Association has promised to “protect and support the health and well-being of all its members” amid reports of some unrest in the weighing room.

King George VI Chase winner Bryony Frost alluded to difficulties she was facing following her greatest success in the saddle – and while she has not commented on the specifics, it is believed to stem from an incident at Southwell in September, according to a report in The Times.

A complaint has since been lodged by Frost with the British Horseracing Authority.

Speaking to the media the day after her victory aboard Frodon at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, Frost said: “The more success you have, the more people will frown at you as well as smile with you, so you have to accept it all.

“I’m very lucky I’ve got a supportive team and family around me, and I’m starting to build that bubble in tight.

“I will never change myself because of what some opinions are, as that is not what you are supposed to do.

“As you grow up, you have to remain yourself, and that’s the important thing.”

Paul Struthers, PJA chief executive, said in a statement: “The overwhelming priority of the PJA is to protect and support the health and well-being of all its members, whether on a one-to-one basis, through collective representation or working with other stakeholders in the sport.

“Whilst it would not be appropriate to comment on specific individuals or issues at this time, supporting our members from a pastoral perspective and ensuring appropriate behaviours are responsibilities we take very seriously.”

When contacted, a spokesperson for the British Horseracing Authority said: “The BHA does not comment on ongoing investigations or speculation concerning potential investigations.”

Frost confident as Yala Enki tries again at Chepstow

Bryony Frost reports Yala Enki in excellent shape as he bids to make it third time lucky in the rearranged Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

Frost will bid for more big-race glory in Saturday’s extended three-mile-five furlong showpiece – initially scheduled for December 27, the day after she steered Yala Enki’s stablemate Frodon to Grade One glory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

After finishing third in the 2018 renewal when trained by Venetia Williams, Yala Enki filled the same spot under Frost in the Grade Three marathon 12 months ago, on his second start for Paul Nicholls.

Although the pair made an early departure in last month’s Becher Chase at Aintree, Frost points out the evergreen 11-year-old’s second in a Grade Three at Cheltenham in November puts him in the mix once again.

She said: “He has schooled since Aintree – and if anything he is schooling even better than before, so we will ignore the mishap at Aintree.

“The Cheltenham run off top-weight was a mega run for him – and I really do feel he is better this year, in his work at home and just the way that he is.

“His jumping has seriously sharpened up, and Paul and Clifford (Baker, head lad) have been given him lots of schooling sessions which do him the world of good.

“It would have been nice for it to have gone ahead when it was supposed to, but he hasn’t dulled down when he was ready to rock and roll.”

Paul Nicholls will be represented by both Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge in the Coral Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)
Paul Nicholls will be represented by both Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge in the Coral Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)
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With testing conditions almost certainly guaranteed this weekend, Frost cites another box ticked in favour of Yala Enki, who is one of two runners in the race for Nicholls alongside last year’s runner-up Truckers Lodge.

She added: “The more testing it can become the better it is for him – so fingers are are firmly crossed that it will be on, come hail, rain, snow or whatever.

“If we get there and it’s raceable then I will be really looking forward to it, because he has stamina in abundance.

“It is a long way, but he is tough and he enjoys that sort of challenge.”

Frost is confident Yala Enki will not be out of his comfort zone early on either.

She said: “This race is like a cavalry charge at the start, and you have to find your position really fast.

“He has got plenty of pace on early doors. He likes to get travelling quickly, so he is perfect for that sort of start.

“It is all about a positive start and getting in a quick rhythm and staying out of trouble and trying to find your fences economically.”

Frost believes the switch back to regulation fences will be a positive step too, following Yala Enki’s first-fence fall last time.

She said: “When I say he is economical that was probably the trouble we had at Aintree – because he is used to where the guard rail is and how stiff a regulation fence is, and he knows exactly how much he needs to give respect to it.

“On his normal regulation fences he knows exactly what he has got to do. He doesn’t lose any energy by being too exuberant or giving it too much air.”

Ramses de Teillee and Tom Scudamore (left) get the better of Bryony Frost and Yala Enki in the Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)
Ramses De Teillee and Tom Scudamore (left) get the better of Bryony Frost and Yala Enki in the Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)

Frost blames herself for Yala Enki’s defeat on his return at Cheltenham, but she will not make the same mistake again.

“That race at Cheltenham is one I kick myself for – because I should have kicked harder down the hill, and it could have been a different story,” she said.

“But I was riding him from the horse I knew the year before.

“Now I know I can ask even more of him and that my petrol tank will last longer. We’ve got each other sussed now.”

Victory aboard Yala Enki would complete a whirlwind few weeks for Frost, who is still receiving the plaudits for her King George success.

She said: “The amount of love sent our way and for the team and Frodon has just been mad.

“I’m still talking about it and doing stories now. I think I’m blissfully ignorant to quite what we achieved that day.

“There are lots of little twists of fate that have come about. It is just so cool how something can come together in one big hit.”

Frost taken aback by King George reaction

Bryony Frost has been overwhelmed by the response to her victory aboard Frodon in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The 25-year-old wrote her name into the record books after becoming the first female jockey to win the Grade One contest following a fine front-running performance from both horse and rider.

Having had little time to come to terms with what she has achieved, Frost, whose victory was watched by 1.4 million people on ITV Racing, claims she is still taking everything in.

Frost said: “I woke up this morning and my first thoughts were ‘crikey, I’ve won the King George’. My world for the last 24 hours has been completely turned upside down with the amount of ‘well dones’ and love being sent the whole team’s way. It’s just epic.

“I think they said 1.4 million people viewed it. You can’t even comprehend that in your head – how people would have seen him and how epic he is. It’s a pretty cool thing and I don’t think it will ever sink in.

“(While I was) trying to keep up with my phone, I burnt my pizza last night! I managed to get a free coffee from the garage on the way home as I was chatting to the guy behind the till and he saw it. I got a free vanilla latte, which I was chuffed to bits with!”

With Kempton currently under Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions, only a handful of people were able to witness Frost and Frodon’s moment of glory on the track.

Bryony Frost gets a hug from trainer Paul Nicholls after Frodon's King George success
Bryony Frost gets a hug from trainer Paul Nicholls after Frodon’s King George success (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
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However, she hopes plenty of noise was made in homes across the country in the absence of spectators.

“It’s afterwards (you realise). It’s gutting not to have the sports fans here shouting you in, giving you high-fives and a thumbs-up and things like that. I sure hope that in everyone’s living rooms or kitchens or wherever they were watching from, the roofs were coming off the houses instead of the roof here at Kempton,” Frost said.

“I talked to Paul (Nicholls) and he said there is nothing quite like the King George when all the spectators are here and they are always raising the roof for the King George winner.”

Plenty have praised Frost for her heroics in the saddle, but not every response to her landmark win has been positive.

She said: “The more success you have, the more people will frown at you as well as smile with you, so you have to accept it all.

“I’m very lucky I’ve got a supportive team and family around me and I’m starting to build that bubble in tight.

“I will never change myself because of what some opinions are, as that is not what you are supposed to do.

“As you grow up, you have to remain yourself and that’s the important thing.”

Making headlines is something Frost has made a habit out of throughout her career, but she still counts herself lucky to be in the position she is in.

A delighted Bryony Frost after riding Frodon to win the King George
A delighted Bryony Frost after riding Frodon to win the King George (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“As a kid my imagination was always running wild with the maybes, but after I started point-to-pointing, I realised how tough it is without support,” Frost added.

“I just think don’t look up too high, but keep focused on where you are at, making the best of things and surround yourself with the best people to be the best.

“My dad (Jimmy Frost) and my brother are the biggest people I admire and Ruby (Walsh) in his finesse of riding and his balance. I used to watch Ruby win the King George and that to me was mega with Paul’s team. Then to be associated with Paul and get my first couple of rides for him was great.”

Riding notable winners is nothing new to Frost, having also become the first woman to ride a Grade One winner over jumps at the Cheltenham Festival aboard Frodon in last year’s Ryanair Chase.

However, she feels her King George success may be her biggest achievement yet.

She said: “If you give me a month, I would probably be able to weigh up the two. They mean similar, yet are so different at the same time.

“It’s hard to judge. It would be like having two dogs or cats at home and trying to weigh them up, I guess.

“Yesterday, when it does sink in, we might just realise what we have achieved.”

Bryony Frost salutes ‘one in a million’ Frodon after historic King George

Few partnerships in racing are as special as the one Bryony Frost enjoys with Frodon and the pair secured another landmark moment with victory in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton.

In a year which has seen Hollie Doyle continue to break new ground on the Flat, the 25-year-old secured two more records of her own with a tenacious two-and-a-quarter-length success aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained 20-1 chance in the Boxing Day highlight.

Not only did the result see Frost become the first female rider to win the historic Grade One contest, it also meant she passed Lucy Alexander’s total of 174 to become the winning-most female jump jockey in Britain – something she only realised she was on the brink of achieving on Christmas Day.

Frost said: “That’s a few boundaries crossed today and a few moulds broken.

“I’ve got a little book at home, dad (Grand National-winning jockey Jimmy Frost) used to do it. It’s a tiny little book and it has got the number of your rides, where it was, the horse, owner and trainer – from my very first pointing ride at Fleet Park, where I fell off at the last, to today.

“To put that in my book and to be thinking how many things we have achieved in one race is great.

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“Hadden (Frost, brother) was on a WhatsApp video call (on Christmas Day) and he said ‘B’ do you realise you are one away from having the most winners as a female jumps jockey (in Britain).

“He said ‘imagine if you did it on Frodon in the King George?’. I just said ‘that doesn’t happen Hadden, stop being so silly’.

“I still can’t believe that me and Frodon can class ourselves a King George-winning pair. To me, though, I’ve won a King George on Frodon for Paul and the team and that is the big thing, regardless of the girl stuff, the winners and history.”

Despite Frodon disappointing at Aintree last time out in a race in which a number of fences were omitted, Frost – whose jubilation was perfectly captured when she exclaimed on ITV immediately afterwards: “We’ve just won the King George!” – was confident from an early stage a different result was in the offing.

She said: “Quite a few people said ‘how do you expect your chances will be?’ and I always say ‘I’m behind him 100 per cent’.

“This isn’t like Aintree. I brushed that under the carpet basically and I pretended like that never happened. I was coming straight from Cheltenham (when a handicap winner under a big weight in October) in my own head, as for a few reasons that (Aintree) didn’t happen for us.

“I thought about the gallop I set at Cheltenham and I weighed up what we did in the Grade Two last season and we tried putting that together and tried to set a gallop that he enjoyed. Once we crossed the sand and he pricked his ears going down to the first, I thought ‘we are on’.

“Santini was a small irritation for him as I couldn’t quite get the breathers I wanted to, but he came here in such rude health he just stuck his elbow out and kept moving forward the whole way.”

Bryony Frost and Frodon have an unbreakable bond
Bryony Frost and Frodon have an unbreakable bond (David Davies/PA)

Part of what makes Frodon and Frost so special is the understanding between them – something the rider, who picked up a two-day ban for careless riding, feels has been integral to the success they have enjoyed on the track.

She said: “I know his limits as well as he does mine. We know how each other think out there, and when it is going right and when it isn’t. When it is right we are right on and when it isn’t I look after him, like I did at Aintree. He is one in a million.

“Every horse has their differences. A horse like him is extremely special. I would struggle to find any animal or human that would mean what he does to me – he understands me and I understand him. I will probably get the mickey taken out of me for talking about a horse like that, comparing him as a human. I feel you shouldn’t be in the game if you didn’t love your horses and I adore him.”

Another step forward will be required for Frodon to triumph in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March – but having already become the first female jockey to ride a Grade One winner over jumps at the meeting, when the duo won last year’s Ryanair Chase, Frost feels anything is possible.

She said: “Kempton isn’t our favourite track. We’ve come to a different stomping ground, which in my opinion is the wrong way (right-handed). Cheltenham is his playground, he absolutely adores it.

“It’s a different race entirely, to me though why not? I feel like he is just loving his racing career, so why not give him the chance to tackle the big guns on the big stage. You wouldn’t question his stamina today, he has run away with me the whole way.

“If Paul says we are going for the Gold Cup, I will follow him blind.”

Fabulous Frodon sees off all-comers in King George

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!

Paul Nicholls with Frodon
Paul Nicholls with Frodon (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“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.

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“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?”

Rainyday Woman impresses in Huntingdon victory

Rainyday Woman proved a cut above her rivals in the Fitzdares Club Adores Henrietta Knight Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race to form the highlight of a Huntingdon double for Paul Nicholls.

Having made a winning debut for the 11-times champion trainer at Stratford last month, the imposing five-year-old had little problem in following up, running out a decisive winner of the Listed prize.

Prominently-ridden throughout, the 7-2 joint-favourite galloped on strongly all the way to the line under Nicholls’ daughter, Megan, before scoring by three and a half lengths.

Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “Megan felt like she had improved from Stratford and it looked like she had at home.

“I think the fact she is a big, strong mare in those conditions suited well as she stays very well.

“Meg was a bit concerned she did a fraction too much for the first mile, but I’d say she has a good level of ability.”

Rainyday Woman is likely to wait until next season before having her attentions switched to hurdles, according to Derham.

He added: “I suspect we will stick to bumpers for this season. You could either go to the Listed bumper at Sandown or the Grade Two at Aintree for girls.

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“She will be one to really look forward to in mares’ novice hurdles next season.”

Silent Revolution completed a brace for both Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden after landing the Fitzdares Wishes Everyone A Merry Christmas Intermediate Open National Hunt Flat Race by a short head.

Derham said of the 11-10 favourite: “He is a nice horse, but he wouldn’t want the ground that deep.

“He got done for a bit of toe turning in, but he showed a fantastic attitude for a young horse to stay on like that and get back up.”

Premiumaccess and Harry Cobden clear the last
Premiumaccess and Harry Cobden clear the last (Tim Goode/PA)

Grade One-winning rider Cobden got off the mark aboard the Colin Tizzard-trained Premiumaccess, who opened his account under rules in the Google The Fitzdares Club Right Now Novices’ Handicap Chase, which the 17-2 shot claimed by a length.

Cobden said: “Last night I thought he would win as I schooled him the other week at the Tizzards.

“He has always shown he is a nice horse and he does work well, but he jumps exceptionally well.

“I thought today if he didn’t win off 110 I didn’t know anything about racing.”

Eclair De Guye and Bryony Frost clear the last before going on to win the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase
Eclair De Guye and Bryony Frost clear the last before going on to win the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

Bryony Frost and Lucy Wadham struck gold together for the second time in three days following the nine-and-a-half-length victory secured by Eclair De Guye (6-1) in the Fitzdares Fancies Goose Over Turkey Handicap Chase.

Frost said: “He took a bit of time to warm up, but down the back he really started to jump.

“He made some good ground then and over the last mile he really started to operate.

“I enjoyed trying to work out what the best thing to do with him was and get him on my side.”

On the link up with Wadham, she added: “Leighton Aspell helped me loads with the first couple of rides and as he has now retired Lucy wanted a jockey.

“Her owners seemed to like me, thankfully, and the relationship has started to build.

“She is brilliant to work with.”

Zhiguli and Niall Houlihan (right) on the way to winning the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)
Zhiguli and Niall Houlihan (right) on the way to winning the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle (Tim Goode/PA)

Niall Houlihan received an early Christmas present when eclipsing his previous best seasonal total of seven winners with a four-length victory aboard Zhiguli (5-2) in the Fitzdares Thanks Lily O’Shea This Christmas Handicap Hurdle.

Houlihan said of the Gary Moore-trained winner: “That’s eight winners for the season, which is great.

“There was no set target – just to ride as many winners as I could. I’m just happy to have beaten last year’s total.”

Bryony Frost warms up for Frodon date with Fakenham winner

Bryony Frost will be hoping her victory aboard Martello Sky at Fakenham is a sign of things to come when teaming up with Frodon in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

The 25-year-old, who will be seeking a second Grade One on the 2019 Ryanair Chase hero at Kempton on Saturday, made her only ride of the day a winning one in the Vote Hollie Doyle Sports Personality 2020 Mares’ Maiden Hurdle.

Picking up well for pressure, the Lucy Wadham-trained four-year-old met the last on a good stride before defeating Allavina by three and a quarter lengths to make it three wins from as many visits to the Norfolk track.

Frost said after her success aboard the 11-8 favourite: “I couldn’t quite hold my position, but the ground is better down the inside and we had to sit and suffer for a minute. The last, she saw it, measured it and pinged it carefully and she went away very well.

“She is very clever and is nimble and balanced for a young mare. She also has a great turn of foot.

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“It is brilliant to get another winner on the board and her owners are all local. I’m sure they will pop a bottle of champagne for her.”

Although Frodon is a general 20-1 chance to strike gold in the King George, Frost reports the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old to be in good order ahead of his return to Grade One company.

She said: “Frodon is squealing and in good health at home. The ground was very tacky between the fences at Aintree (last time out) and I know some people say I’m making excuses, but it’s a race that didn’t happen for us.

“We will push it under the carpet and he has come out of it great. So we will take our chances.”

Archie Watson is better known for his exploits on the Flat, but Juge Et Parti enhanced his healthy strike-rate at the course when bouncing back to form to land the British Racing School Handicap Hurdle by five lengths.

The Lambourn handler said of the 14-1 shot: “I’ve actually got a very good strike-rate here. Bazarov, Premier D’troice and this lad have won here.

“He has been through a lot this horse. He had a fractured tooth which then ended up developing a big sinus infection. He has come out of it well and it his first run since.

“He obviously had an almighty headache which we have relieved and he has come up and won it well. Brodie (Hampson) has given him a great ride.”

Niall Houlihan equalled his best-ever seasonal total of seven winners aboard the Gary Moore-trained Gorham’s Cave (9-2), who claimed the Fakenham Skips Supporting EACH and RBL Handicap Hurdle by nine and a half lengths.

Houlihan, deputising for Josh Moore, said: “It was probably too commanding (how far he won). I didn’t realise how far clear I was until I got to the last hurdle.

“He really enjoyed it around there today. His hurdling improved throughout the trip. He is a very athletic horse and has taken to it well.”

Useful Flat stayer Diocletian (100-30) gave Classic-winning handler Andrew Balding his first winner at the track when prevailing by 10 lengths in the Christmas Holidays Maiden Hurdle.

Winning jockey Page Fuller said: “That is definitely the most mature he has been over hurdles. He settled well and you could ride a race on him today.

“He had four nice horses in front of him at Newbury last time and I’d like to think off the back of that run he can go on to bigger and better things.”

Twiston-Davies back in form with Huntingdon treble

Sam Twiston-Davies emphatically ended a 36-ride losing streak with a Huntingdon treble, completed by Innisfree Lad in the MansionBet Faller Insurance Handicap Hurdle.

Having endured a day to forget at Wetherby 24 hours earlier, during which Ballyoptic pulled up in the feature Charlie Hall Chase, Twiston-Davies enjoyed the perfect confidence-booster at the Cambridgeshire track.

He said: “It’s a fairly crazy game. You go 36 rides without a winner, and you start to think ‘what you are doing – are you doing it wrong?’.

“It shows, though, on a day like today when you are on the best horses to have a plan and stick with it.”

Innisfree Lad had a slice of good fortune when scoring at the course 19 days ago, but the eight-year-old needed no such luck this time round – cruising home 18 lengths clear of Shantou Sunset, for Twiston-Davies and trainer Tom Symonds.

The winning jockey said of the 4-1 favourite: “I think the faster pace and softer ground suited him more than some of the others.

“I just tried to copy what Brian Hughes did last time, by keeping him wide. He jumped nicely.”

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A step up to Grade One company may be next for Orchestral Rain, who gave Twiston-Davies and trainer Dr Richard Newland the second of their two winners together – by 10 lengths as 2-1 favourite in the MansionBet Proud To Support British Racing Juvenile Hurdle.

Newland said: “He had to do a lot of the donkey work but he has done that well.

“I think he has progressed a lot from his last run, and I thought that at home because he is now getting the hang of it. He is probably better going the other way [left-handed].

“We will see what the handicapper does, but we might go for something like the Finale at Chepstow because I think the testing ground will suit him.”

Even-money favourite Chef De Troupe got the ball rolling for Twiston-Davies and Newland, following up his recent Perth success by two lengths in the Download The MansionBet App Claiming Hurdle.

Newland said: “He is a nice horse with lots of ability – but he got a fair hike for winning last time, so we thought this was a good option.

“He will go back into handicaps now, because no one came forward to claim him.”

Espoir De Romay formed the opening leg of an across-the-card double for trainer Kim Bailey – with an impressive two-and-a-half-length success on his debut over fences in the Watch And Bet At MansionBet Novices’ Chase.

Bailey, who was also on target with rising star Imperial Aura at Carlisle, said: “He is a nice horse and at the end of it he will have learnt a bit today. (Jockey) Ciaran (Gethings) was very impressed with him.

“He had a good season last year and he was one I was looking forward to, because he has been good over fences at home. He will be a better horse on softer ground.

“Like all these novices, I think he will need a little bit more experience before raising our sights.”

Perfect Myth (6-4) went one better than on her previous visit to the track when making her first start over an extended two miles three a winning one, by five lengths in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Bryony Frost, rider of the Neil-King trained winner, said : “The step up in trip has helped her today. I got caught in a bit of traffic last time, but she jumped beautifully today – and once I came round the final bend, she hit top gear.

“The wind op she had has helped make her believe in herself, and she is turning into a really nice mare now.”

Fabulous Frodon proves unstoppable at Cheltenham

Frodon started out on the path towards the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a tremendous weight-carrying performance in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase.

In a display that would have almost certainly raised the roof had there been a crowd in attendance at the hallowed Prestbury Park venue, the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old jumped his rivals into submission to claim a sixth course victory.

Although pressed for the lead early on, last year’s Ryanair Chase hero – who was conceding upwards of a stone to all his rivals – gradually fought the challengers off one-by-one under faithful ally Bryony Frost, before being left to battle it out with West Approach over the final two fences.

Meeting both the second-last and final fence on good strides, the hugely-popular gelding only needed to be pushed out to defeat West Approach by a length and a half.

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Nicholls said of his 9-2 winner: “That was an amazing performance. I thought he would probably need the run a little bit. I was going to go for the Charlie Hall next weekend, but changed plans a fraction as Cyrname is going there and he loves Cheltenham – but I thought he had it all to do with that weight.

“That’s nearly a career best. Off 164 in a handicap, giving weight to those horses over that trip.

“In last season’s Ryanair he was totally outpaced, but that trip (three miles and a furlong) suits him better now. You can sit and save a bit out in front, and you could see that’s what she was doing.

“You have to be very fit to do that first time up with that sort of weight and I was surprised how fit he was.”

Frodon in full flight at Cheltenham
Frodon in full flight at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Nicholls will now work back from the blue riband in March, with William Hill making Frodon a 33-1 chance while Paddy Power went 25-1 for the same race and Coral 20-1.

Nicholls said: “Paul (Vogt, owner) said earlier in the week he would love him to run in the Gold Cup and that will be his aim. I said you would have to win on Saturday with that weight, then he will be right in the picture. That has put him on the fringe of it.

“He loves it here. I’m not going to say he will win the Gold Cup, but he always runs well around here and he deserves his place in it. We will work back from there.

“We will run in something like the Cotswold Chase after Christmas. Handicaps will be out after that performance.”

Bryony Frost returns victorious aboard Frodon
Bryony Frost returns victorious aboard Frodon (David Davies/PA)

A jubilant Frost said: “Weight stops trains, that was about the only thing that was going to stop us today.

“But his class pushed that worry to the side. The jumps he did out there were unbelievable – he really is just magic to be with. He’s done it perfectly.

“He knows every blade of grass, every fence, out there.”