Will an enormous BHA handicap mark of 164 anchor Frodon and Bryony Frost?

3.50 Cheltenham
Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase | 3m1f | 4yo+ | ITV4/RTV

Lightly weighted runners have dominated this race in recent years with five of the last six winners carrying less than 11st and that gives you an idea of the task facing Frodon, who is the only runner above that barrier, attempting to concede upwards of 17lb to his rivals.

However, it’s worth mentioning that nothing of his class has lined up at the top of the weights in recent times. Frodon is a genuine Grade 1 performer, with the 2019 Ryanair Chase among his victories, and with a BHA mark of 164 – the same mark off which he won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup as a six-year-old – is at least 10lb better than any other topweight to have competed in this race in the last ten years.

Frodon and Bryony Frost have become Cheltenham stalwarts, winning five times at the track including a handicap off this mark a couple of years ago, so can he make his class tell again?

It’s possible, but he failed to repeat his best form in four outings last season and there are concerns over this trip. He has won over further at the track but that was in a small-field Grade 2 when he was at his peak form and the majority of his best efforts are over shorter.

Frodon’s appearance means several of his rivals get in off feather weights and none are more eyecatching than the rapidly improving Manofthemountain, who has won his last four completed starts and races from 1lb out of the handicap, getting 26lb from Frodon.

Manofthemountain has a similar profile to 2010 winner Midnight Chase, who landed this as the second leg of a four-timer before finishing fifth behind Long Run in the Gold Cup later that season. Manofthemountain has a way to go to reach that level, but is on the right track.

Colin Tizzard has a 29 per cent strike-rate in three-mile-plus chases at the November meeting at Cheltenham since 2013, but he has been unable to replicate that success at this two-day fixture. The leading trainer is 0-15 in such contests at the course in October in that time.

That has contributed to a modest overall total of just three winners from 50 runners in all race types at Cheltenham’s October meeting since the start of 2013 and Tizzard is hardly flying coming into this year’s fixture either. He has just one winner from his last 28 runners.

Tizzard saddles last year’s runner-up West Approach, who appeared to improve for his reappearance in this race when going on to land the staying handicap chase at this course in November. He is still 5lb higher than for that win though, and all evidence points to Tizzard using this as a prep run for another crack at the race he won last year at the track next month.
Graeme Rodway, tipster

What they say
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Frodon
He looks great and fresh and it's a huge task at the weights, but he's a good horse. Looking at him, he might just come on for the run as he's as big as a bull, but that's just him and we've got to start somewhere. He'll love the ground.

Dan Skelton, trainer of Captain Chaos and Cobra De Mai
I just feel the handicapper might have Captain Chaos high enough after his win in the Grimthorpe. He could improve for the race and might be 2lb too high. Cobra De Mai, on the other hand, is back down to a more realistic mark after being smashed out of the park by the handicapper following his Cheltenham win in April last year. He’s never had his perfect conditions since, but will like the ground and trip this time and has a nice weight. He’s got a fair chance. 

Noel Williams, trainer of Sensulano
It’s a very competitive race to start her off in but she seems in good nick. She’s a winner on her only previous visit to Cheltenham [over hurdles], and enjoyed a good season novice chasing last year. Hopefully the step up to three miles will bring a bit more improvement. It’s a good starting point for her and I’m confident she’ll run well.

Emma Lavelle, trainer of Manofthemountain
He really has done nothing wrong. I was delighted with his win at Bangor last month and he deserves a step up in grade now. He’ll think he’s loose galloping round with just 10st on his back and, as long as he handles Cheltenham, he should go well.

Fergal O’Brien, trainer of Perfect Candidate
His participation is totally dependent on the ground. If he doesn’t run he’ll go to Aintree on Sunday.