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Bryony Frost Cheltenham Day 1 Preview: Frodon’s Down Royal form looks strong

It’s great to be starting the week with two nice rides, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Frodon returns to the Festival for more

There will be no hiding place for Frodon under top weight in the 14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase, giving away upwards of 9lb to what’s going to be a maximum field, but his mark of 164 is the same as when he won a decent handicap off the exact same course and distance less than 18 months ago, and he hasn’t exactly gone backwards.

He’s won three top races since then, including a King George at Kempton and a Champion Chase at Down Royal, and the Down Royal form looks really good as he beat Galvin, who won another Grade 1 at Leopardstown next time and is just about favourite for Friday’s Boodles Gold Cup, and Minella Indo, who won the Gold Cup a year ago.

Down Royal was huge – what he did there was Frodon all over – and although he hasn’t run well on either start since we know why. In the King George the ground had gone and was very, very tacky, which he hates. Then Leopardstown we can totally scrap, as he wasn’t himself that day and the ground went against him there too.

We all know that Frodon loves Cheltenham, as he’s won six times there now, and he particularly enjoys the atmosphere of the Festival. He comes alive there, as we saw when he won the Ryanair. The drying ground is in his favour too, so fingers crossed there’s no more rain.

He’s well capable of winning off his mark and he always gives 100 per cent, so I’m sure he will give a bold bid, as he always does. What we don’t know though is what might be lurking lower down the weights with more in hand.

Competitive Mares’ Hurdle…as ever

Later on I ride Martello Sky for Lucy Wadham in the 16:10 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle, which is a Grade 1 and as competitive as it ought to be.

We are up against several mares who have already won at the Festival, including Telmesomethinggirl, who we finished behind a year ago when they met in the first running of the Mares Novices’ Hurdle, but Martello Sky ran a lot better than the bare form suggests that day.

She’s got her own technique over hurdles and nearly fell at the one in front of the stands first time around – how she stood up I’ll never know – but having had only one behind her two out she flew home up the hill to finish a very respectable eighth. This is an extra half mile, which is a big plus.

Martello Sky has won twice at Cheltenham since then, so loves the track, and she goes there at the top of her form, having won a Listed race at Sandown last time.

Polly, who rides her every day, is over the moon with her, so we know we have her in the best nick possible.

She loves a battle and she’s got heaps of determination, and that will to win, which she has in abundance is a major asset in this sport of company. But with the crowds back I’ll be making every effort to keep her as relaxed as I can, as she can be inclined to get a bit too excited.

She’s definitely matured though and she’s a lot more professional than she used to be, so hopefully we’ll be alright.

Breathtaking action all over the card

The Mare’s race is the fourth Grade 1 of a superb first day, and I’ll be watching all of the others closely.

With Constitution Hill, Jonbon and Dysart Dynamo all having shown high-class form already you couldn’t ask for a better quality opener than the 13:30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, even if the field is a bit smaller than you’d like, and if there’s one horse we know will come up the hill strongly it’s Constitutional Hill, after the way he finished in the Tolworth.

Paul runs Silent Revolution, who has only had the one run over hurdles before, winning at Newbury in November, but while he’s short on experience I love him as a horse. I did some work with him last week and he stands quite tall and is very athletic. He rides as a very forward and mature sort, and he jumps well, so he deserves his chance.

I won’t be at all surprised if Silent Revolution is in the picture turning in, and I’m also expecting a big run from Kilcruit, who was one of last year’s big hopes from Ireland.

In the 14:10 Arkle Chase I can’t fault Edwardstone, who has won all of his completed starts over fences, including a Grade 1 and two Grade 2s.

He’s a very fast and slick jumper, which you need to be in these championship two-milers, but besides needing that explosive power you also have to stay. I think Edwardstone ticks both boxes.

And then there’s the 15:30 Champion Hurdle, in which all eyes will be on Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore as they bid to repeat last year’s win in the race and extend their unbeaten run still further.

Rachael is a true professional as well as being thoroughly down to earth, with time for anyone and everyone. The pair of them make an unbelievable union and it’s huge to be part of the day and to hear the crowd’s appreciation of them.

The betting suggests that Appreciate It is the one to beat, and although he hasn’t been seen since he ran away with the Supreme a year ago, that wouldn’t worry me at all with Willie Mullins.

Willie has brought horses back successfully from long lay offs plenty of times before in championship races and Appreciate It will be well ready I’m sure. If anything can beat Honeysuckle I think it will be him, but I think the mare will win again and I’m expecting the roar of the crowd to take the roof off the stands when she does.

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