Frost shines as Secret Investor lands Denman

When Bryony Frost wins a big race, particularly one in which she leads her rivals from start to finish, the viewer is left with the widest of smiles. On this occasion, through no fault of Frost's, that collective joy amongst jumps fans was missing.

In steering Secret Investor to a neck defeat of Clan Des Obeaux, Frost helped one Paul Nicholls-trained stayer beat another in a race named after one of the stable's late stars.

The sadness that poured out of this Betfair Denman Chase is The Conditional is now also a late star.

Nicholls is blessed to have a yard full of high-class performers. For David Bridgwater, The Conditional was the bright, shining light, yet in a weekend of much misery for the sport he suffered what proved to be a fatal hind leg injury setting off down Newbury's back straight.

Watching the rest of the contest was tempered with the realisation that this was probably the end for a horse who had finished second here in last season's Ladbrokes Trophy before achieving Cheltenham Festival glory for owner Peter Cave.

For both Secret Investor and Clan Des Obeaux, the target will be not Cheltenham but Aintree, where the two Ditcheat team members are set to renew rivalry in the Betway Bowl after coming home clear of Kalashnikov and Cepage. Last season's Gold Cup third Lostintranslation was only fifth on his first run back from a wind operation.

A final-fence blunder could have proved costly for Secret Investor, but although Harry Cobden did his best aboard Clan Des Obeaux, the dual King George hero was perhaps less committed to the cause, prompting Nicholls to decide headgear is coming his way.

"From jumping the first couple of fences we had the run of the race," said Frost. 

"We were able to slow it down at the cross fence, which he soared over, and then once we turned in I knew he stays strongly so we kept moving forward. We've just outbattled Clan in the end, but it felt like it was only by a very small margin.

"There really is something about these three-mile chasers. When you ride them and get into that formidable rhythm it's a fantastic place to be. You can sit real low, right behind their ears, and when you start finding the fences cleanly and in your stride it's a very blissful place to be."

Click here to watch a replay of the Denman Chase

Frost described last season's Denman runner-up as a horse whose "engine is a bit better than his wheels".

Nicholls, who was landing the Grade 2 for the tenth time, admitted to being a little surprised the engine was so powerful.

"I said to Bryony to ride him like Frodon and make every post a winning one if she could," he said. "I thought on all known form he wasn't good enough to win, but he's obviously improving. We kept him back for this race again and that was by far and away a career best from him today. 

"Clan does tend to carry his head bit high and the first thing Harry said was that perhaps we should put cheekpieces on him. He had wanted to put them on today, to be fair, but I spoke with Mr Barber during the week and we thought we would give the horse the benefit of the doubt. Next time we'll put them on to sharpen his mind a fraction."

The thoughts inside the mind of The Conditional's connections must have been immeasurably bleaker.

"I was stood down there and saw it happen," said Nicholls. "It's terrible, especially for someone like Bridgy, a brilliant trainer but someone with only a small string of horses. To lose his stable star is terribly sad."