In the know: angles and trainer views for the Cotswold Chase as Frodon steps up
BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (Grade 2) 3m1½f | 5yo+ | ITV/RTV
Paul Nicholls says Frodon has done little wrong over two and a half miles, but the seven-year-old, who would seemingly line up with a live chance in the Ryanair Chase at the festival, goes on trial for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup in a race the multiple champion trainer has won four times.
Frodon, whose form over Cheltenham's New course reads 3811501, has finished second twice and fallen in three outings over three miles, but Nicholls is optimistic that stamina will not be an issue.
He said: "He loves this track, but the trip is a newish one to him. He's been in good shape at home and I'm looking forward to running him."
The mount of Bryony Frost, Frodon is set to start favourite and is the highest-rated runner in the field at 169.
"His form has been excellent this season and he has stepped up on what he has achieved in his career," added Nicholls. "That is highlighted by his higher rating this term.
"I think he'll stay the trip. He has to prove he stays and this is another step up, but if he does prove himself over this trip, then we would have to look at the Gold Cup."
Don't underestimate Elegant Escape, says Tizzard
In Native River and Thistlecrack, Colin Tizzard already has two bright hopes for the Gold Cup and Elegant Escape bids to join that team.
The Ladbrokes Trophy second was a slick winner of the Welsh Grand National last time and is no slouch according to his trainer.
"We want to find out whether he's good enough," Tizzard said.
"The Welsh National was a month ago and he's been fine since. You mustn't underestimate this horse. He had good form as a novice and he's no plodder. We'll find out more about him and that will tell us whether he's a Gold Cup horse. He stays well and you have to stay well at Cheltenham."
Henderson keen to learn what pair are capable of
This race could have always been on Terrefort's agenda, but he has not arrived in quite the way connections might have hoped.
Second in the JLT Novices' Chase and successful in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree last season, Terrefort promised plenty but produced an underwhelming display 76 days ago at Sandown.
However, Daryl Jacob – the retained rider for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede – has stuck with the six-year-old over his Nicky Henderson-trained stablemate Valtor, who also runs in the two-tone green silks.
Henderson said: "Daryl schooled them both on Thursday morning and decided to ride Terrefort, who looked like being a very high-class horse last year and I thought we were starting in the right place in that intermediate chase at Sandown.
"He jumped well for a circuit and then, for some inexplicable reason, his jumping fell to pieces. That's so unlike him. There was something obviously wrong, but I can't say we ever really identified it, except I had to put him away and start again as he wasn't moving right and wasn't a happy bunny at all."
Terrefort was also successful in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase last term and Henderson has not lost hope.
"We've started again and have to get a run into him before Cheltenham in March and see what he's capable of," the champion trainer added. "Last year when he was second in the JLT and won the Grade 1 at Aintree he looked top class.
"He never shows you anything at home and he's no better or worse than he was last year. It's going to be every interesting and also with Valtor because we don't know much about them.
"They're in at the deep end, but can't run in handicaps so we've got to have a look at a race like this and learn what we can."
A French import, Valtor ran away with a Listed chase at Ascot last month under James Bowen, who again takes the ride.
"His win at Ascot before Christmas surprised me and it's put us in a predicament because he's gone up to 160," Henderson said of the horse he initially thought might be one to help end his Grand National hoodoo.
"We've got to see what he is because we've smashed his handicap mark, but he's been really well since his last run."
What they say
Frank Berry, racing manager to JP McManus, owner of Minella Rocco
He has been ready to roll for a few weeks now, but we've not been able to run him because of the ground. This looks a good opportunity to get him out and hopefully he'll run well.
Richard Hobson, trainer of Alysson Monterg
We just want to be in the frame. He's a talented horse, but is still a long-term prospect and we're trying to get some experience into him to maybe get in the Grand National. He goes well around Cheltenham. He's had problems and had one after his Albert Bartlett run. If he'd been 100 per cent that day he'd have been in the frame. We've nursed him back and he's in great order and stays well, so we'd just like to see him run into a place.
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