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Frodon skips Cheltenham Festival to go for Gold at Leopardstown

By Jon Vine
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14 Jan 2022
  • Paul Nicholls reveals he has pointed Frodon at the 2022 Irish Gold Cup
  • This Grade One takes place on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival on Sunday 7th February
  • The former Ryanair Chase winner didn't feature in the Cheltenham Festival entries last week
  • Read key quotes from Paul Nicholls in the following article
frodon frost
Bryony Frost celebrates after riding Frodon to win The Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 14, 2019. (Getty)
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Former Cheltenham Festival winner, Frodon will bypass the meeting this year, in favour of a trip to the Dublin Racing Festival.

The initial entries for the Gold Cup, the Ryanair and the Champion Chase were revealed last week. Eyes were immediately drawn to the likes of Shishkin, Allaho and A Plus Tard, who will headline "the greatest show on turf" in 2022. One who was conspicuous only by his absence, however, was fan's favourite Frodon.

Paul Nicholls' star boasts an enviable record around Prestbury Park. Frodon has won six of his 14 starts at the venue, picking up the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in 2016 and '18, the Crest Nicholson Handicap in 2018, while also winning both the Cotswold Chase and the Ryanair in 2019.

Together with Bryony Frost, Frodon has become a household name with racing fans around the country. The news that he wouldn't be running at this year's Festival, despite winning the third Grade One of his career at Down Royal earlier this season, came as a real shock.

That being said, Paul Nicholls is a master at hatching a plan, and he seems to be thinking outside the box with Frodon this term. After the Cheltenham Festival entries were announced, Nicholls' revealed that team-Frodon had decided to target the valuable Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival, instead of another trip to Cheltenham.

“He’s going to Leopardstown." Nicholls told the press. "It’s a great race for him - the ground is always decent, and the field can cut up with only a few runners, so that’s what we’re setting our sights on.”

“I spoke to Paul (Vogt, owner) and we felt he wasn’t quick enough to win a Ryanair Chase and won’t stay the Gold Cup trip.”

“If he finished fifth in another Gold Cup and hard a hard race, that could finish his season. He’s an amazing horse but he’s not going to win either the Ryanair or the Gold Cup - three miles on decent ground is what suits him."

“We got it right at Down Royal and now we’ll try to get it right at Leopardstown.”

paul nicholls frodon
Paul Nicholls won the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Ladbrokes Champion Chase with Clan Des Obeaux and Frodon in 2021. (Getty)

Much has been made of the ground conditions on the jumps courses at Leopardstown in recent years. Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have been forced to pull their top stars out of meetings at Leopardstown when the ground has come up too quick. Both have been very vocal in the build-up to this year's Dublin Racing Festival, stating that, if the ground was to come up good once again, they won't be sending many horses to Leopardstown that weekend.

In a recent interview, Gigginstown Stud boss Eddie O'Leary described the ground controversy at Leopardstown as a "horse welfare issue".

“They were very lucky the last day (Christmas Festival) that they got two and a half inches of rain or else otherwise it would have been absolutely ruined again." O'Leary told the Irish Times.

“We’ve heard Willie talking. We’ve heard Gordon talking. The ground is a massive issue up there and I hope they can address it.”

O'Leary even went so far as to propose a change to the lay-out of the course, in order to make the ground safer on the chase track.

“One suggestion could be to move the fences in." O'Leary continued. "The configuration of the track at Christmastime, all the advertising hoardings were between the chase track and the hurdle track. Now, why can’t you have the chase track where the hoardings were?"

“Where I’m saying the chase track should be moved to is about a foot and a half lower than where the chase course is now. Have the flat track on the outside.”

“The ground was substantially better there than it was on the outside. They seem to want the chase track on the wide outside and it is firm ground the whole time."

“Hopefully they can provide safe ground, but they’d want to provide it. I don’t know what has happened. This is a relatively new phenomenon."

I doubt Paul Nicholls will be sweating on the state of the ground, as Frodon goes best on good, bouncy ground. Nicholls also said that Tingle Creek winner, Greaneteen could make the trip over to Leopardstown too, with a view to running in the Dublin Chase on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival.
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