Frodon: the ‘full-on joker’ bidding to make Cheltenham Gold Cup history *H&H Plus*

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  • He’s Pegasus over the fences and a “full-on joker”. Jennifer Donald meets the Gold Cup contender bidding to help his devoted jockey make history

    Frodon’s trainer Paul Nicholls

    “Frodon’s first race for us was as a four-year-old and he won a good juvenile hurdle at Haydock second time out. But he wasn’t anything to look at. He’s not big, so when he first arrived he looked like a rabbit. But obviously he matured, strengthened up and filled out. He has a lot of class and, as he’s got older, he’s got more stamina. He jumps great and has the will to win. He’s an amazing horse, absolutely astonishing in fact.

    “He’s mad-fresh and comes out of his box with his tail in the air, so he needs plenty of work – he literally cannot do enough. And he’s a real character. He squeals the whole time he’s out, setting the entire string off most of the time. Even after he won the Ryanair, he was still squealing in the veterinary box afterwards. He loves everything he does. He’s just one of those happy, enthusiastic horses.

    “He’s ridden out every day by Holley Evans, who adores him. They’re a match made in heaven. He’s always taking the mickey out of her and she’s part of him.

    Winning the King George was my proudest moment because it was a bit of a surprise. It was magical for him and his owner, Paul [Vogt], for whom Frodon is really special. It’ll be his lifetime’s ambition to have a runner in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.”

    Stable lass Michelle Kramer

    “He’s like a toddler; he’s into everything and is always looking for treats, he’s so cute. If anyone is giving another horse on the yard attention, he starts banging the door. He’s happy-go-lucky and when you put him on the walker, everyone knows ‘Here comes Frodon’ because he squeals like a pig and enjoys a buck, too. You know he’s feeling well by the amount of squealing. But he’s straightforward and loves nothing better than to roll when you’ve laid out his stable.

    “As soon as you put his travelling boots on, he knows where he’s going and he can’t stand still. Watching him at the races, I’ve been getting more and more nervous recently. I’ve never felt like that before.

    “When he came round the back straight in front during the King George, everyone was hitting me saying, ‘He’s got this!’ but I couldn’t believe it. I had tears of joy running down my face when he won, so I was quite glad for having to wear a face mask that day. He’s fit and well but I expect I’ll feel all the nerves in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival.”

    Jockey Bryony Frost

    “To describe him as a person, Frodon would be the one in the room with the contagious laugh. He inspires through how courageous, determined and self-assured he is. He’s so nimble and accurate, he’s brilliant to sit on, but I’m definitely the apprentice, he’s the boss.

    “In the early days, the most worrying thing was getting down to the start because he’s quite gung-ho. In parades, Harry Derham, Paul’s assistant trainer, would sometimes have to help Michelle lead him and I was giggling away on top as Harry skied underneath me with his heels planted in the turf. Frodon just took him for a walk. He’s a full-on joker.

    “As a girl, you watch horses like him on telly and dream of what they may be like, so to have him in my career is beyond a fairytale. We’ve achieved not just wins, but we’ve broken records and smashed a lot of expectations. The whole grandstand erupted for him when he won the Ryanair. Coming down the chute was such a proud moment because I could feel how much he’d touched people. He thrives off all that.

    “If I don’t have fun with him in the Gold Cup, there’s something wrong with me. It’s the biggest test of our career and one of the toughest races, but ask me what horse I’d like to ride in the race and it would always be Frodon.”

    Also published in H&H 11 March 2021

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