Frodon became only the second dual winner of the G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.55pm) with a tremendous weight-carrying performance in the feature £130,000 handicap chase on day two of The International at Cheltenham.
Frodon and Bryony Frost winning the Caspain Caviar Gold Cup
The six-year-old, who captured the extended two and a half mile contest in 2016, provided trainer Paul Nicholls with a record fifth victory in the race and emulated his stable-companion Poquelin, who won in 2009 and 2010.
Top-weight Frodon (11st 12lb), runner-up in the G3 BetVictor Gold Cup at The November Meeting, was immediately sent to the front by Bryony Frost and the Paul Vogt-owned chaser saw off his 11 rivals with an exhilarating display of jumping.
Baron Alco (11st, 5/1, Gary Moore/Jamie Moore) joined the leader heading out on the second circuit but could not live with Frodon, who saw off his BetVictor Gold Cup conqueror turning for home.
Cepage (10st 5lb, 12/1, Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch) stayed on well to go second three fences out but could not quite get on terms with Frodon, who kept on gamely up the hill to score by a length and a quarter, the pair clear.
Last season's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner Guitar Pete (10st, 13/2, Nicky Richards/Ryan Day) made good late headway to take third, 15 lengths behind Cepage, with another two and a quarter lengths back to Baron Alco. It was a cold and wet day at Cheltenham Racecourse.
Somerset-based Paul Nicholls, the 10-time champion Jump trainer, said: "What a horse - he had 10st 4lb when he won this race two years ago and 11st 12lb today.
"For whatever reason, he is improving. I said to Bryony pop him out and put it to them. I was just worried that for the first mile he was a little bit free, but what an engine he must have to keep galloping like that and jump like he did - astonishing horse.
"The improvement in him is just unbelievable. Those sort of horse suit Bryony - they were just amazing. I am gobsmacked that he has won off that weight. I knew Frodon was well.
"I did tell Bryony to be a bit more positive than we were the other day and try to put them to the sword.
"In the BetVictor Gold Cup, all he did was stay on, and the New Course suits him that much better than the Old Course because it's stiffer and more galloping.
"I thought we might have a chance of turning it round with Baron Alco on the New Course - it was made for him.
"He went a fair old gallop and kept going. He and Bryony are so brave - when he is half-wrong at a fence, he just has a go at it. He eats the fences. I knew turning in that he has his ears pricked and he always does enough.
"He is six now and I suppose that we have got to train him for the Ryanair Chase. We will work back from that and I can't see him running again for a while. If we are going to go for the Ryanair Chase and take is seriously, you would want to go there fresh or just one run beforehand.
"There is no point in trying to ask him to carry another big weight in a handicap, let's try and win the Ryanair with him.
"It is a great race to win and I really enjoyed it. The whole thing, from his jumping and going a gallop out in front, is what it is all about."
Bryony Frost commented: "You have a partner like Frodon whose dares you to say ask me again, ask me again - and he has top-weight guys - and he bounds just across the fences like he has got invisible wings - it is literally like he is Pegasus for me. Some of those strides - what did he think! He is like no go on, we have got to, so I go with him - he is so brave.
"He is as big as a lion, the biggest, baddest one of them all - awesome. You have got to have 100 per cent confidence - I gave him a couple of breathers because of his jumping. This ground is getting softer and the weight is getting harder - he was reaching for a few, I had to fill his lungs. So we did and then I asked him to go - hey boy, there was no catching us then.
"With that weight and the weather out there, Frodon nearly got blown sideways first time up the home straight. The way that he put pressure on with his jumping today - he is just so brave - and you have to believe in him.
"When you see the strides on him, you have to take it because he wants it. He is the epitome of a brave racehorse - he just loves to go out there and give everything to you.
"It's a privilege to be sat on horses like that. He is just a big dude who fights for you. He is only six and his engine is still building underneath him - you can see him afterwards, dragging the team along, he is as fresh as paint. He is a complete warrior.
"I didn't know if I could hear hoofprints coming behind me or my colours flapping in the wind. I didn't dare look, I just kept growling at Frodon and sending him up the hill, praying to God that the line would come somewhere."
3.05pm £140,000 Unibet International Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 179y
Brain Power (7/1, Nico de Boinville), runner-up in the G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices' Chase in March, capitalised on a return to the smaller obstacles to provide trainer Nicky Henderson with an unprecedented fifth victory in the Unibet International Hurdle.
The Michael Buckley-owned seven-year-old, rated 158 over hurdles following several smart efforts during the 2016/2017 campaign, travelled strongly into race turning in and readily opened up daylight over the rest of the field after taking up the running approaching the final flight.
He idled up the hill but had enough in reserve to beat Silver Streak (9/2, Evan Williams/Barry Geraghty) by a length and three-quarters, with a further two and a quarter lengths back to third home Western Ryder (4/1F, Warren Greatrex/Richard Johnson).
Lambourn-based Nicky Henderson, the current champion Jump trainer, said: "I think Brain Power enjoyed the fact that we brought him back over hurdles, for which I take absolutely no credit at all.
"We have been trying to make him into a chaser and he was second in an Arkle. We did a back operation in the summer because his technique wasn't quite right and he had an issue with a kissing spine.
"We have given him a couple of runs and he hadn't been convincing, but I thought he was better. Michael (Buckley) said that he wanted to go back over hurdles - he was dead set on coming here and he was dead right.
"Michael and I have been together for a long time - we have been great mates and we have had some great horses - so I am chuffed to bits for him. It was his call and I said this morning that, whatever happens, it was a good call because it was a winnable race.
"I think he will staying over hurdles now and he stays two and a half miles, which does open things up."
Nico de Boinville commented: "We went quick over the first couple and then steadied it up going down the hill, which seemed to suit Brain Power.
"He came hard on the bridle and I almost got there too soon turning in, but he was travelling so well that I thought that I would let him enjoy himself.
"He gave me a great feel today and I think that we will keep him over hurdles now. We have found his groove again and it was good to get his confidence back after he slightly lost his way over fences. All credit to Michael Buckley and the guv'nor for doing it."
Michael Buckley said: "It was like watching Brain Power two years ago, when he won at Ascot, and I think he is just not as happy over fences. He looked like a happy horse.
"I think he has a better chance in the Champion Hurdle than any of the chases at The Festival. I am thrilled to bits - this horse is one of Nicky's three best work horses at home, up there with Buveur D'Air and Altior.
"It's hard work for a sentimental, emotional enthusiast like me, going to the races constantly and being disappointed. It has been a really happy day."
The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Sam Twiston-Davies), winner of the Unibet International Hurdle in 2013, 2014 and 2016, made the running until losing his place at the top of the hill and was pulled up before the final flight. He was immediately retired by connections.
Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "The New One was superb and I have never seen him enjoy himself so much early on, but he just hasn't got the legs at the anymore.
"It's a very sad day and that will be his last race, but look how happy he looked."
Henderson, who recently retired last year's Unibet International Hurdle winner My Tent Or Yours, also paid tribute to The New One. He said: "It was lovely to see The New One bow out safe and sound.
"He and My Tent Or Yours had been around for a long time and they had some great battles together.
"They were great days and they epitomised the best of National Hunt racing - they have been running in Champion Hurdles for years and have been great servants. I hope they can enjoy their retirements."
12.10pm £25,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial 2m 179y
Nelson River (Tony Carroll/Harry Bannister), a winner at Bangor on his only previous hurdling start, flew home to claim an eventful renewal of the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, a race in which 5/2 favourite Protektorat (Dan Skelton) unseated Harry Skelton at the fourth flight.
Katpoli (3/1, Dr Richard Newland/Sam Twiston-Davies) set a strong gallop for much of the race and rallied after being headed shortly after the final hurdle by Fanfan Du Seuil (11/4, Tom George/Paddy Brennan).
The duo looked set to fight out the finish, only for 6/1 chance Nelson River, who appeared well held turning in when fourth, to storm up the hill and hit the front near the line for a length success. Fanfan Du Seuil took second, with another length back to Katpoli in third.
Tony Carroll, who also trained Nelson River to win on the Flat at Wolverhampton in September and has a yard near Worcester, said: "Nelson River is a lovely horse, who is potentially very good and talented, and he is still only learning his game.
"He is a big, backward type of horse with lots of scope and potential. Looking forward, he is really smart. I think he is the first English-bred horse to win this race and he is a very nice horse to have.
"Today was the day to see where we were with him and I am not sure where we will go now. I will speak to connections but we will try and make a plan to be back here in March.
"I think he will probably handle softer conditions. It was on the easy side at Bangor when he won and the first two home pulled a long way clear of the third, so that looked a nice race."
Harry Bannister added: "Nelson River over-raced a little bit early on and the front two got away from him down the back at the top of the hill. All he does is stay and he has done it really well in the end.
"He was very good when he won at Bangor - more workmanlike and little bit green - but he was a lot more professional today and it's great for Mr Carroll and the team to have a nice winner at Cheltenham.
"Nelson River is doing everything right at the moment and maturing as he goes. He handles this softer ground - it's windy out there but I thought it rode like good to soft. I questioned whether he would cope with it but he has definitely shown that he has."
12.45pm £25,000 Ryman Novices' Chase 2m 4f 127y
Drovers Lane (3/1, Rebecca Curtis/Sean Bowen) gained his third victory in four appearances over fences with a staying-on success in the Ryman Novices' Chase.
The six-year-old, conceding weight all round following wins under the side-lined Adrian Heskin in novices' handicap chases at Hereford and Market Rasen, was prominent throughout and took up the running after the 10th flight.
A mistake three fences from home briefly allowed Jenkins (3/1, Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville) and Le Breuil (3/1, Ben Pauling/Daryl Jacob) to challenge the leader, but Drovers Lane stayed on well to prevail by a length and a half. Le Breuil rallied late on to take second, a head in front of Jenkins.
Rebecca Curtis, who trains in Wales, commented: "It was a really good performance, giving weight to a couple of horses rated 145. He could well have been unbeaten over fences, but he made an awful mistake at Aintree, which put him out of the race.
"He doesn't need summer good ground I think, but he definitely won't want it too soft. Sean said that he would get further, so we will look at both the two and a half-mile (JLT Novices' Chase) and the three-mile (RSA Insurance Novices' Chase) at The Festival.
"We thought that the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase would be ideal, but he will be too good for that now, which is no bad thing."
Sean Bowen declared: "It was a good performance from Drovers Lane, who galloped up the hill well. We went a nice, even gallop the whole way and, apart from three out, he jumped well.
"He has given 145-rated horses weight today and has run to almost 150, so he is obviously an alright horse.
"I was keen to keep him rolling along because he stays well over two and a half miles. He would get three miles but I think a good, strong gallop over this trip suits him well.
"He is a nice, big horse and he will probably go on ground a bit softer than today, but not too soft heavy. It's good ground out there, which is probably his best.
"I feel for Adrian Heskin, who has done well on this horse and has been riding plenty for Rebecca. I am gutted for him and hope that he is back soon."
1.20pm £30,000 Cheltenham Club Handicap Chase 2m 62y
Ozzie The Oscar (11/4, Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson) produced a battling display to edge out 5/4 favourite Bun Doran (Tom George/Paddy Brennan) in the Cheltenham Club Handicap Chase.
The seven-year-old, runner-up in the G2 bwin Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter earlier this season, was left in front following the early departure of Top Gamble (Kerry Lee/Sean Bowen) at the third fence.
Ozzie The Oscar lacked fluency at several fences, including a significant error four fences out, and was headed by Bun Doran jumping the penultimate obstacle.
Bun Doran continued to hold a narrow advantage over the last but was passed shortly afterwards by Ozzie The Oscar, who stayed on well up the run-in to score by three and a half lengths, with the first two 25 lengths clear of Theinval (8/1 Nicky Henderson/Jeremiah McGrath).
Trainer Philip Hobbs remarked: "Ozzie The Oscar is a star. When he made that mistake at the top of the hill, you would have thought that it would have been the end of it, but he battled back.
"Richard said it may have been something to do with the wind but he was very resolute. He hadn't won this season before today but had ran some good races, including a second in the Haldon Gold Cup.
"We will see how we go from here. There is no obvious race for him coming up - there is a decent two-mile handicap chase at Doncaster in January. Whether we go there or give him a break until the spring, we will see.
"He is a borderline Graded horse. We will have to see which route we take and what races come up."
Richard Johnson said: "Ozzie The Oscar was good and then put down on me three and four fences out, but he is usually pretty brave. I am not whether the wind slightly put him off, but it is very windy out there.
"To be fair to the horse, he has really dug in well and found plenty up the run-in. It's a career-high mark to win off and he has been a really good chaser over the last 18 months.
"It is going to get harder and harder because he is going to go up again for today but it's lovely to have those type of horse that can run in some nice races. He is only a young horse and has a very good attitude, which makes all the difference."
2.30pm £32,000 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 7f 213y
Colin Tizzard took the G2 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle for a second successive year as experienced second-season novice Rockpoint (11/2, Tom Scudamore) gained a first career victory on his 10th start.
The official going was changed to Good to Soft from Good before this race.
The five-year-old, who races in the colours of Thistlecrack's owners John and Heather Snook, was handy throughout and stayed on well after hitting the front two flights from home to beat Lisnagar Oscar (8/1, Rebecca Curtis/Jeremiah McGrath) by two and three-quarter lengths.
Rockpoint could now try and emulate last year's winner Kilbricken Storm, who returned to Cheltenham to capture the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March.
Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father Colin, commented: "We were chuffed to bits with Rockpoint. It was probably a blessing that he didn't win last year because he is a much stronger horse this year. The step up in trip has obviously helped as well.
"We ran him over two miles here and he looked very one-paced. Sean Bowen said that he was crying out to be stepped up in trip and it was a solid run at Newbury last time, when he proved that he could stay three miles.
"He is solid jumper and he did it nicely - he pricked his ears for the last 50 yards, so there is a bit more to come.
"John and Heather Snook are keen Cheltenham people, so they won't take any persuading to come back here in March."
Tom Scudamore said: "Rockpoint has jumped so well, it was a real pleasure. Due to his colours, the first horse everyone ever thinks about is Thistlecrack, but that's just the way it is. He has won a nice race in his own right.
"He has become much more of a man. Last year, he was a bit of a playboy - he was genuine but just a big kid - but he was very professional today. His hurdling was superb and he has beaten them all nicely."
3.40pm £30,000 OLBG.com Mares' Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f 56y
Noel Williams enjoyed his first Cheltenham victory with Briery Queen in the 2016 running of the OLBG.com Mares' Handicap Hurdle and the Oxfordshire handler doubled his tally at the Home of Jump Racing as Sensulano (4/1, Barry Geraghty) struck in the same race.
The five-year-old raced behind the leader for much of the two and a half mile contest and quickened well between horses to hit the front just after the last before asserting for a two-length verdict over Oscar Rose (6/1 Fergal O'Brien/Paddy Brennan).
Noel Williams commented: "Having winners here means everything - this is where it all really matters - and I am delighted. It was also a filthy, horrible day when we won this race with Briery Queen two years ago and I thrilled with Sensulano, who is so tough.
"I don't know if the ground is that deep but there is a fair old headwind. I thought that we were in a bit of trouble coming down the hill because she was being squeezed along but the further they went up the straight, the better she got.
"She barged her way through the gap and kept galloping - she is improving. She and Barry were a good match but I feel a bit sorry for Leighton Aspell, who was due to ride her today.
"Barry and I have a 100 per cent strike-rate - he has ridden for me three times and won each time. I might have to make him my stable jockey!
"The horses have been running very well. We have one or two nice novices coming through and the future looks bright. I would like a few more horses if I am honest but the number might just creep up with a few more winners like this."
Barry Geraghty, who took the ride after Leighton Aspell was injured the day before at Cheltenham, added: "Sensulano was game. We were on the back foot from before two out but she kept finding for me.
"I was lucky enough to get a clear passage, but she was coming alive against the hill and she is a good, tough type. She winged the last.
"I love to ride a winner at Cheltenham - it is good fun."