Frodon was thoroughly eclipsed on his return to action and low sun was at least partly to blame, as the game little chaser was only third in the Old Roan here. Course officials decided the three fences in the home straight would have to be missed out on both circuits because the angle of the sun was making them hard to see from the take-off side, but taking the emphasis off jumping ability was no help to Frodon.
“It’s very disappointing that we’re in a jumps game and six fences are taken out,” said his jockey Bryony Frost, whose downcast mood was in sharp contrast to the elation seen when they last paired up to win at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The jumping element, she said, is what “makes his heart come to life”.
“He was extremely confused when I pulled away from the fences. He was pulling me back in. But the people above me, the stewards and the safety people, say the shadow was too strong on the fence, so ...”
Frodon spent most of the race in his familiar position at the head of the field but was made to look slow as Forest Bihan and Kalashnikov cruised up on either side of him as they bypassed what should have been the second-last. Forest Bihan, carrying 20lb less than Frodon, eventually won with a degree of comfort while his more famous rival laboured home 14 lengths behind.
1.00 Aurora Thunder 1.35 Order Of Thistle 2.10 Three Is Company 2.45 Attention Please (nb) 3.20 Rightdownthemiddle 3.55 Dusty’s Choice
4.25 Shining 4.55 Almareekh 5.30 Bryn Du (nap) 6.00 Back From Dubai 6.30 Thumur 7.00 Piece Of History 7.30 Firelight 8.00 Natty Night
“Taking the last three fences out helped us more than them,” admitted the winning trainer, Brian Ellison. “I keep saying to the owner, this would be a 100-rated horse if we ran him on the flat. He’s very classy.”
The officials’ decision received the backing of Brian Hughes, rider of Forest Bihan, who said low sun was also an issue during last year’s Old Roan, when all the fences were jumped. He said his mount that day, Cloudy Dream, hit a fence and suffered an injury that has sidelined him since. “It’s all about welfare, at the end of the day,” Hughes added.
Andrew Tulloch, Aintree’s long-serving clerk of the course, said: “It’s not a decision we like to take but Sean Quinlan, who’s the safety officer, said he wasn’t confident [that the fences were safe to jump in the circumstances]. Safety is paramount.”
Low sun had not been a factor for a steeplechase an hour earlier and all the fences were jumped in the race after the Old Roan, leading to social media suggestions that Aintree should consider running their big race earlier or later on the card. But Tulloch said cloud cover had helped when those other races were being run and it was not possible to anticipate when the sun would be problematic.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Frodon, had said on Saturday that his horse faced a stiff task at the weights. He must hope Frodon will be sharper for his next outing, expected to be in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, for which he is now an 8-1 shot behind the 2-1 favourite, Bristol De Mai.