Paul Nicholls won the Badger Beer Chase at Wincanton for the 11th time and Bryony Frost the third as Frodo’s class won at Wincanton.
Winner of the Grade One Champion Chase at Down Royal on this day last year, Nicholls was once again aiming for his evergreen 10-year-old at this precious prize.
However, persistent rain in Northern Ireland throughout the week meant that Nicholls had a change of heart and kept the popular fighter closer to home, and the home crowd were the beneficiaries.
2020 King George winner Frodo and Frost have become one of National Hunt Racing’s endearing partnerships, and, having lost 6lbs by the handicapper since his last race, Nicholls had no qualms about letting him race despite the higher weight of a note of 158.
El Presente, a former Badger Beer winner, kept him company for the first half of the race, but Frodo’s brilliant jumps eventually put him under pressure and he passed out.
Down the straight it was Lord Accord who was the only real danger, but he closed in on the last, allowing Frodo to go home two and a half lengths ahead as the 9-4 favourite. Cap Du Nord finished third.
Al Dancer’s emotional victory for Walters
Al Dancer (5-1) was a class performer in his youth for Nigel Twiston-Davies, but risked losing his way before joining Sam Thomas.
Gray took the national fences with aplomb in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree but had to be brave at the finish as Geskille came on with a late run under Henry Brooke, only to fail by the narrowest of margins.
Thomas and Al Dancer owner Dai Walters were involved in a helicopter crash on Tuesday in Llanelidan Woods, near Ruthin, North Wales.
While initially it looked like all of the passengers escaped serious injury, Walters, 77, is now in intensive care.
James Standen, Thomas’s assistant, said: “Sam is fine and he was able to come and do evening stables last night and stuff, but he’s pretty stoned to be honest. Fingers crossed for Dai, everyone thinks to him.
“Sarah (Llewellyn, Walters’ daughter) really wants us to keep going, that’s what we’re going to do and winners like this are what he really needs. All our thoughts are with him and his family and we hope and pray for a speedy recovery.”
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