Bryony Frost pilots Frodon to win thrilling Down Royal Champion Chase

Frodon and Bryony Frost held off Galvin in a thrilling finish to the 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 Cheltenham 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’s 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 to jump, Frodon’s accuracy 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 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.

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 … What is that, 18 races he has won in his lifetime? It’s just phenomenal.

“Testimony to Paul to have a horse coming out every season, again and again, with the same enthusiasm. It is exactly what he is a master of.”

At Wetherby, Fusil Raffles claimed victory in a dramatic renewal of the Charlie Hall Chase. All the attention before the Grade Two contest was on defending champion Cyrname. Sent off an 85-40 chance, Cyrname took up his usual prominent position through the early stages and was still in front until Harry Skelton decided to kick on aboard 2-1 favourite Shan Blue at the turn for home.

The second-season chaser quickly built up a healthy lead only to get the third-last all wrong and crash out. That gave the rest of the field a second bite of the cherry and it was Fusil Raffles and Daryl Jacob who seized the advantage, jumping the penultimate fence in the lead.

He cleared the last in fine style to secure a four-and-a-half-length success over Kitty’s Light with Clondaw Castle back in third. Cyrname was pulled up before the last and Nicholls reported his charge to have suffered breathing issues again.

Paul Webber’s Indefatigable became the third mare in five years to win the bet 365 Hurdle at Wetherby.

While Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park hit his customary flat spot going down the back straight, he did stay on over the last quarter of a mile to finish a respectable third, but the bird had flown by then. Jacob had ridden a patient race on Indefatigable, who won at the Cheltenham Festival in 2020, and took up the running at the second last.