Can Frodon & Bryony Frost make history in the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Bryony Frost has made no secret of her affection for Frodon and, not for the first time, the pair exceeded expectations when making all the running to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old belied odds of 20/1 on that occasion, jumping well at the head of affairs and coming home 2¼ lengths ahead of Waiting Patiently, with defending champion Clan Des Obeaux 6 lengths further back in third place.

Frost, already the first woman to ride a Grade One winner at the Cheltenham Festival, wrote her name into the record books again by becoming the first female jockey to win the King George VI Chase and the most successful female National Hunt jockey in history, with 175 winners. Frodon, too, booked his place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, for which he is currently 16/1 sixth favourite.

Of course, 3 miles 2½ furlongs around Cheltenham is a much sterner test of stamina and jumping ability than 3 miles around Kempton, but Frodon has an admirable record on the New Course at Prestbury Park, having won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, Cotswold Chase and Ryanair Chase in recent seasons. He has won at distances up to 3 miles 1½ furlongs on going ranging from good to heavy so, now a dual Grade One winner, he needs to be taken seriously on his first attempt in the ‘Blue Riband’ event.

Can Delta Work win the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Whether Delta Work can win the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup remains to be seen, but despite finished fifth, beaten just 6¼ lengths, behind Al Boum Photo in the 2020 renewal, the eight-year-old is currently quoted at 33/1, in places, to find the necessary improvement. In 2020, Delta Work failed to establish a jumping rhythm and, although he made just one notable mistake, was rarely, if ever, as fluent at his obstacles as the first four home. Nevertheless, trainer Gordon Elliott seem satisfied enough with his performance, under the circumstances, and may be more concerned by the jumping problems that resurfaced on his most recent start, in the Grade One Savills Chase at Leopardstown, over Christmas.

Not for the first time in his career, Delta Work failed to sparkle on his seasonal reappearance, in the Grade One Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal, in late October, but was nonetheless sent off second favourite for the Savills Chase, having narrowly won the same race in a driving finish in 2019. However, having been held up at the rear of the field, he made a mistake and parted company with jockey Sean Flanagan at the ninth fence. Clearly, his jumping still has room for improvement but, granted that he was sent off 5/1 joint second-favourite for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, his current odds do appear rather dismissive, even allowing for his recent reverses. According to Elliott, Delta Work will have just one more run before the Cheltenham Festival, with the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles, among others, mooted as possible engagements.

Which Cheltenham Gold Cup winner started and ended his career by falling at Kempton?

Without wishing to give away too much too soon, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winning horse in question made his racing debut in a novices’ hurdle at Kempton, on January 21, 1983. Having made the running, he crashed, exhausted at the final flight and took so long to get to his feet that it appeared, for a time, as if he might not do so. Thankfully, he did.

He went on to win 34 of his 70 starts over hurdles and fences and over £650,000 in prize money, but on his final start, in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, 1991, again fell, when beaten, at the third-last fence. On that occasion, though, he was quickly back on his feet and received a heartwarming round of applause as he galloped, riderless, past the packed grandstands. Two seasons previously, he had enjoyed what was probably his finest hour, overcoming bottomless ground and racing left-handed – he was two stone better going left-handed, according to his regular jockey – to win the ‘Blue Riband’ event of steeplechasing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

You may well have guessed by now that the horse in question is Desert Orchid who, despite an inauspicious start and end to his career, not only won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but also the King George VI Chase, four times, the Irish Grand National and the Whitbread Gold Cup, to name but a few of his major successes. He was awarded a Timeform Annual Rating of 187, inferior only to such luminaries of National Hunt racing as Arkle, Flyingbolt, Sprinter Sacre, Kauto Star and Mill House.

How many winners did Steve Smith-Eccles ride at the Cheltenham Festival?

Former National Hunt jockey Steve Smith-Eccles retired from race riding in 1994 and is best remembered for winning the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival three years running on See You Then, trained by Nicky Henderson, in 1985, 1986 and 1987. However, seven years prior to winning the two-mile championship for the first time, Smith-Eccles had already recorded his first victory at the Cheltenham Festival, when landing the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase aboard Sweet Joe, trained by Harry Thomson ‘Tom’ Jones, in 1978.

Sweet Joe suffered a career-ending injury early in the 1978/79 season, but aside from a notable hat-trick in the Champion Hurdle, Smith-Eccles also won the Triumph Hurdle twice, in 1985 and 1987, the Grand Annual Chase in 1985 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1986, for a career total of eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival. Six of those eight winners – First Bout (1985), See You Then (1985, 1986 and 1987) River Ceiriog (1986) and Alone Success (1987) – were trained by Nicky Henderson, at whom Smith-Eccles once threw a punch during an argument, while Alan Jarvis rowed in with Kathies Lad (1985). Indeed, the three winners Smith-Eccles rode at the 1985 Cheltenham Festival were sufficient to win him the leading jockey award for the one and only time.

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