Bryony Frost maintained her unbeaten record aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Corton (4/1) in the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase, the second race on day two, BetVictor Gold Cup Day, of The November Meeting.
The six-year-old son of Laverock tracked the well-backed 10/11 favourite Ballyoptic throughout the extended three-mile event but quickened clear on the turn for home and kept on tenaciously up the punishing Cheltenham hill to score by four lengths from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge in second.
Colin Tizzard’s West Approach (7/4) was a further 29 lengths behind in third.
Frost has built up an excellent rapport with the French-bred gelding and is now five from five on him. She followed up last week’s win in the Badger Ales Trophy aboard Present Man, also for Nicholls, with another high-profile success today.
The Ditcheat handler was quick to praise the conditional, commenting: “She rides very well and is a very good girl.
“You watch her all the way round there, she sits quietly and is as good as any of the other conditionals out there.
“She is a very talented lady who works hard and is from a good family – I’m pleased for her.
“He is an astonishing horse really who is just getting better and better. His hurdles’ form was beneath the other two but he has just kept improving throughout the summer.
“He has had a lot of runs, but this week he looked better than he has ever looked. I am astonished with the improvement.
“We thought we’d let him take his chance but it’s just astonishment that he has won.
“He is not a typical big chaser, like the other two in the field, but he gets on well with Bryony. He has got loads of ability and it just amazes me how much he has improved.”
Regarding future plans, Nicholls added: “We might look for something else and then give him a break but my belief is that when they are in form and improving, then there is no point in putting them away.
“We might have to aim for something like the RSA Chase as you have to aim at something like that, as this is top-class form which he has shown today.”
‘BLACKIE’ AND FROST ARE HOT TO TROT
The Paul Nicholls-trained Black Corton, the outsider of the three runners in the three-mile mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase at 4/1, extended his winning sequence under today’s jockey, Bryony Frost, to five, taking the race by four lengths.
Frost couldn’t hide her jubilation, saying: “I wouldn’t get mind getting used to this! I don’t think you’d ever get used to wins like this, though.
“Hats off to that little horse – he deserves every pat he gets. From going round Worcester in the summer to now beating these type of horses on ground you wouldn’t say he likes, on a trip you’d never say he’d stay, under weight for such a little horse – he’s brave. Going down the back he gave me every inch he had, and I put his jumping to the test going down the hill. I prayed to God the little horse would keep going, and he did.
“I could hear Ballyoptic [the 10/11 favourite, who finished second] coming to me – that’s the biggest thunder of hooves you could hear – and I thought, ‘Don’t get caught now Blackie, you don’t deserve that’. Hats off, brilliant – absolutely marvellous. I owe a lot to that horse – first win as a professional, five out of five – he is my best friend.”
“We click – I love him and have every faith in him. He’s an amazing little lad. The last time he won here guys shrugged him off a bit, and you’d have to because he hadn’t won against decent horses, but today he’s put two very decent horses to bed. He’ll tell us when he’s done but for now he’s saying, ‘Don’t you pull me up!'”
JOHNSON HAPPY WITH BALLYOPTIC
Jockey Richard Johnson was happy enough with the performance of Ballyoptic after the 10/11 favourite finished the four-length runner up behind Black Corton in the mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The seven-year-old appeared to be travelling well under his jockey for the majority of the three-mile race as the pair lead the field, but they could find no answer to the finishing kick of the winner and Johnson was pleased enough with his effort.
“He’s done well,” said the jockey.
“He’s run another good race. I suppose the winner just had that little bit more experience than him and that’s probably made a bit of difference on the day.
“I think he’s run well though. He copes well with most ground so that’s not an excuse.”
West Approach finished a further 29 lengths back in third and his jockey, Tom Scudamore, thinks he is a better horse than he showed today.
“It’s very soft out there,” said Scudamore.
“It took him a bit of time to warm up but he never really got fully going. We know he’s better than that and there will be other days for him. Sometimes it’s the case that they are a bit more novicey on their second start than on their first, so maybe that’s what’s happened today.
“He’s still a nice horse though.”
Colin Tizzard, trainer of third-placed West Approach, a half-brother to his stablemate, Thistlecrack, said: “He didn’t pick the bit up going into the first, nor the second, nor the third or fourth and so on. To put it mildly, he didn’t seem to try an inch. There is no comparison to this effort and Thistlecrack’s first attempt over fences. It’s back to the drawing board.”
To view a replay of the race, please click here: