Five things we learned: Frodon & Frost fire once again

Frodon was a game winner of Saturday's Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton.
Frodon was a game winner of Saturday's Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton.

Another weekend of top class racing down and Joe Tuffin is back as he takes a look at the five main stories to come out of it ...

Frodon is as game as they come, but will he win at the festival again?

Unfortunately the discussion in the build-up to Saturday’s Silviniaco Conti Chase wasn’t about those that were actually lining up, but instead on the high-profile omission of a certain Altior, who was controversially ruled out earlier in the week. That was a bit of a shame as it overshadowed what was an intriguing affair, with Frodon and the in-form Top Notch guaranteed to put on a good show, though admittedly the inclusion of Altior would have added an extra layer to the story.

As it transpired, the match never materialised; with Frodon running out a game winner over the 14/1 shot Keeper Hill, while Top Notch was back in third. It was a typical Frodon performance really, and was very reminiscent of what we saw 303 days ago in the Ryanair Chase. He still maintained his lead approaching the last, but Bryony Frost was mustering all her strength to fend off the closing pack, seemingly in vain, until the horse decided to dig in once again and extend his lead to win by one-and-a-quarter lengths. As she said in her interview post-Cheltenham success; “He’s the perfection of determination”.

But looking forward, could he make it back-to-back successes at the Festival? He was cut into 6/1 for a successful title defence, and is a general 33/1 chance for the Gold Cup should connections decide a step up in trip would be feasible. Would I side with him in either? It's tricky to say - he certainly looked as though he’d returned to form at Kempton - but I’d struggle to see him beating the likes of Min and A Plus Tard, in the Ryanair, while a planned run in the upcoming Denman Chase at Newbury could paint a clearer picture.

Andy Dufresene needs to improve a lot

A winner of the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday, Andy Dufresene has unfortunately fallen into that trap of having a reputation far beyond what is reasonable to bestow on a six-year-old with only four starts under Rules. The fact he carries the colours of J.P. McManus probably doesn’t help that, plus the fact that thousands of people undoubtedly have a tweet drafted whenever he runs about ‘redemption’ means that there’s a lot of pressure on him.

So why were people left so unimpressed when he ran out as winner by three quarters of a length? Well, mainly because the second-placed horse, Captain Guinness, epitomised the word eye-catcher; shooting off half way through despite Rachel Blackmore’s best attempts to constrain him, while still managing to maintain a gallop for the most part and looking the likely winner turning for home. Realistically, if reputation is anything to go by, Andy Dufresene should have won this by miles, especially if his nearest challenger was as immature as Captain Guinness was. He's clearly talented, though he may just not be quite up to the level that people thought. Of course, he may come on again yet, but you’d be brave to be backing him for any of the novice races at the Festival on the back of that performance. 

Kimberlite Candy was a nice performer in the Classic Chase

Prior to the Becher Chase in December, Kimberlite Candy’s form was somewhat patchy, with no noticeable performance since a win in a 0-135 handicap back in November 2018, but he didn’t do much wrong when faced with the Aintree fences, and furthered his Grand National credentials further with a 10-length success in the Grade 3 Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday.

Sent off a 9/2 second favourite, the Tom Lacey-trained gelding stayed on nicely under a brilliant ride by Richie McLernon, and left the impression that four-miles-and-two-furlongs round Aintree would be well within his remit. It didn’t take long at all for that to be confirmed, either, and he was duly cut to around 25/1 for the £1 million contest.

He obviously has a lot to find with the reigning champion Tiger Roll, but he clearly likes the Aintree fences and can stay all day, so could be worth a close eye come April.

The unlucky horse in the race may well have been The Conditional, who clattered the sixth from home - which clearly took the sting out of him - before rallying and then eventually weakening after being boxed in on the rail.

Annie Mc looks a smart recruit to chasing

There was a brilliant mares’ novices’ chase up at Wetherby on Saturday, which saw two Grade 2-winning hurdlers lock horns over the trip of two miles and three furlongs. The Jonjo O’Neil-trained Annie Mc took on the Alan King-trained Alsa Mix, and both put on a brilliant show, with the former coming out on top by a four-length margin.

A lot has been made of Annie Mc, not least because she is the poster girl of the Coral Champions Club, an initiative set up by the bookmaker alongside the Love Island and ITV Racing star Chris Hughes. But her off-track exploits aside, she’s a lovely little horse who has started to cement herself as one with an incredibly bright future ahead of her. She has seemingly made the switch from hurdling to fences with relative ease and is currently unbeaten over the larger obstacles. She showed what a tough mare she is on this occasion, too, engaging in a proper battle which she put to bed with a soaring jump at the last.

There will be a lot of good days ahead for her, and she is currently in the betting for the Mares’ Hurdle, the Close Brothers and the JLT, albeit at big prices. Even so, I’ve no doubt she’d put up a big fight wherever she goes.

Keep an eye on Ben Curtis in the coming weeks

With Jumps fixtures up and down the county falling foul of the dire weather at present, it might be worth swatting up on your All-Weather form, and should you do, Ben Curtis is a jockey to note. He’s been on fire of late, operating at a 30% strike rate with 22 wins in 74 rides. This weekend saw his success continue, bagging a hat-trick on Saturday and a brace on the Sunday from a total of 12 rides.

At the time of writing, Wolverhampton is not far off getting underway, and it would be some shock if he didn’t get at least one of his five rides home in front.

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