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Horse Racing: Old friends Frost and Frodon headline at Wincanton

The 62nd running of the Badger Beer Handicap Chase at Wincanton on Saturday afternoon will be headlined by defending champion Frodon in the hands of long-time partner Bryony Frost.

Now into the veteran stages of his excellent career, Frodon won this race 12 months ago as he recorded a remarkable 17th career win over fences and his first since the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal in October 2021.

Frodon is the top-attraction in a field of 11 contenders for the Wincanton feature, with champion trainer Paul Nicholls also saddling Threeunderthrufive at his local track, in a race where he holds a stellar record. 

Once-in-a-lifetime star

Owner Paul Vogt says Frodon is already a 'once-in-a-lifetime' performer, regardless of what materialises in the coming months in what is to be his final season in training. 

The popular 11-year-old's most memorable days include Cheltenham Festival glory in the Ryanair Chase in 2019 and a stunning victory in the King George VI Chase two seasons later at Kempton Park.

Frodon has been installed as the 3/1 favourite for Saturday's race at Wincanton (2.25), with stablemate Threeunderthrufive next best at 10/3 for Harry Cobden.

Vogt says the vibes are positive around Ditcheat and thinks conditions will be suitable.

"Bryony and Paul say he's in tremendous form so we're hoping for the best," said Vogt. "I wouldn't want it too soft on Saturday, but the forecast isn't looking too bad so if it's good to soft that's fine.

"Last year was amazing and I think there should be a good crowd for it. He's very popular in that part of the world, so I'd like to think there's a few coming to see him."

The owner freely admits that time is going to catch up on Frodon soon. 

"We're hopeful rather than anything. You never know if age will catch up in the end but there's no sign of it.

"He's a once-in-a-lifetime horse, we've had some great days and he always gives his best - a game horse is worth a million dollars," he added. 

"It looks a good race and these handicaps are always hot. We've got 12 stone to carry around but he's done it before, so we'll see."

Frost and Frodon a unique partnership

After he landed from France to Nicholls' stable in Somerset, Frodon enjoyed a decent first season over hurdles, before establishing himself as a smart chaser, winning four of his first five over the larger obstacles in the latter half of 2016.

He was a faller in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton that Christmas, but won two more times that season.

He missed out in his first three starts the following season, but things changed at Ascot two days before Christmas in 2017 when Frost was on board for the first time.

They ended up second-best in the Listed Silver Cup, but a blossoming partnership was born. A win at Cheltenham's Trials Day meeting the following month confirmed as much and ever since it's been Bryony and Frodon all the way in all bar one of his 27 runs. 

Together they've added ten more wins in that time, amongst them some of the biggest days in Frost's riding career.

Ryanair and King George wins the standouts

Frost and Frodon enjoyed the first of two major moments together at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019 in the Ryanair Chase.

Having made the running, they were challenged late on, but Frodon rallied for the win as Frost declared post-race: "That minute where he got overtaken two out, most horses would quit.

"But no, he grabbed me by the hands and said, 'Don’t you dare give up. Don't you dare not send me into the last. I want this more than you, now come on!'" 

Stepped up to three-miles in the autumn of 2020 by Nicholls, Frodon won at Cheltenham in October, but was a 20/1 outsider for the King George on Boxing Day. 

He typically made all under Frost and repelled Waiting Patiently in second, as stablemate and defending champion Clan Des Obeaux could only manage third, while the third Nicholls contender, and favourite, Cyrname, was pulled up.

It was another red-letter day for Frodon and Frost and that Boxing Day exposure helped gain for them a following.

Another Grade 1 followed at Down Royal in 2021, while 12 months ago Frodon returned from 235 days of rest to carry top-weight to glory in this Wincanton feature even - can he do it again now? 

Either way, his days with Frost are far from numbered. Frodon is to bow out at the end of this jumps season, to spend his retirement with the jockey who rode him to his most famous successes.

"When he is ready to retire, he will be coming home with me which is great and we'll be gallivanting around the moors somewhere!" she said recently. 

Dangers aplenty in Wincanton contest

The 62nd Badger Beer Handicap Chase is not all about Team Nicholls, despite plenty of attention on Frodon and Threeunderthrufive.

The champion trainer has, of course, won the contest 11 times since 1999, including four times in the last six years. Frost, meanwhile, has previous in going back-to-back in this very competitive race, as she did it with Present Man in 2017 and 2018.

The Big Breakaway for Joe Tizzard at 11/2, Dan Skelton's pair of Ashtown Lad (15/2) and Ballygrifincottage (14/1), as well as the Anthony Honeyball-trained Sam Brown at 8/1 are just some of those bidding to spoil the party for Frost and the horse she has often referred to as 'The Dude'.

They will have maximum support from the grandstands come Saturday in what amounts to a 'home game' in the Somerset countryside. 

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