Pacha Du Polder strikes to put Nicholls on the scoreboard
A year ago it was all about Victoria Pendleton. This time another woman was taking the limelight as 21-year-old Bryony Frost delivered victory on Pacha Du Polder to give Paul Nicholls a winner at this year’s festival.
Olympic gold medal winner Pendleton, who finished fifth in the Foxhunter, was the first to dish out the congratulations in the winner's enclosure after the triumph for Frost, a pupil assistant at Nicholls’ yard, in the colours of owner Andy Stewart.
Frost, becoming the third member of her family to win at the festival – Hadden won the Pertemps Final in 2010 – said: “It was like a kid in a sweet shop and you keep watching everyone else get sweets, then you get the whole packet.
"Here, at the festival, in these colours and for the team at home, I can’t ask for a better day. It’s unbelievable.
After watching Balnaslow lead until two out, Frost moved Pacha Du Polder to the front at the last before holding the late surge of stablemate Wonderful Charm.
The well-backed On The Fringe, bidding for a third straight win in the race, was never closer than at the finish where a staying-on fourth, one place behind 100-1 chance Barel Of Laughs.
"Pacha Du Polder was unlucky last year when he had a bad preparation but wasn’t beaten far. It’s great to give an opportunity like that to Bryony that she'll never forget. Her dad, Jimmy, is in tears. It meant more to him than winning the National.
"She gave it a great ride and the other horse, Wonderful Charm, ran really well and could have won. They’ll both head to Aintree.
On his festival week Nicholls, who emerges from Cheltenham in a tight battle for the trainers' title with Nicky Henderson – 32Red go 8-11 Henderson and 11-8 Nicholls – said: “It’s been ups and downs but you can’t do it without the horses.”
Pendleton said: "I love the horse and just wanted him to come back safe and sound. I'm thrilled he's won."
Cliste's mystery withdrawal
A BHA investigation has been launched after Anseanachai Cliste was ordered to be withdrawn from the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase because stewards could not be satisfied the horse had been administered only normal feed and water on raceday.
The authority’s chief regulatory officer Jamie Stier said: “In my experience of seven years it’s the first time a horse has been withdrawn in these circumstances. But we're now in the investigation phase so cannot say anything further at this stage.”
Trainer Stephen McConville and owner Michael McConville were interviewed and after hearing their evidence the stewards, who ordered the horse to be routine-tested, referred the matter to the BHA.
Anseanachai Cliste has won his last eight point-to-points in Ireland and was a general 33-1 chance at the time of withdrawal. Neither trainer or owner was available for comment.