Matt Chapman looks ahead to the Dublin Racing Festival and compares an old favourite to Frodon in his latest Sun Racing column
Category : Horse Racing
DO you remember Cyfor Malta? I do. He’s one of my favourite jumps horses.
It’s a good weekend to reflect in the column, with the National Hunt scene in the UK under siege from wintry conditions. Hopefully Sandown will go ahead today, with Buveur d’Air the star attraction.
Cyfor Malta burst onto the British scene in 1998, and was one of those French imports that former champion trainer Martin Pipe handled with such verve. That year he was second in today’s Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase!
A son of Cyborg owned by the late David Johnson, Cyfor Malta was not only talented but a beauty to look at. He oozed class in both body and ability.
Cyfor Malta started off over two and a half miles, but was a stunning winner of the John Hughes Chase over two and three qurater at Aintree. He would go on and land a Cathcart, Murphy’s Gold Cup, Pillar Chase (now Cotswold) and Thomas Pink Gold Cup.
Connections, though, wanted him to win a Gold Cup. He would have tried more than once but for injury, but he did have a go in 2002, when he was beaten thirty four lengths by Best Mate.
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To be fair to Pipe and Johnson, I don’t think Cyfor Malta was anywhere near his best that day, but the point is there was always a huge question mark over his stamina.
I reflect on Cyfor Malta, because I think he’s a very similar type of animal to the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon, another French import who most of you will know is heading for the Festival’s showpiece on the back of a success in the Cotswold Chase last weekend, a race of course Cyfor Malta was successful in.
When Cyfor Malta secured his victory, he cruised into the race but in the end was all out to hold off Go Ballistic.
Frodon was on the front end for his success, but he secured an uncontested lead before tiring late to deny the rallying Elegant Escape.
Frodon is fired over the last by Bryony Frost at CheltenhamPA:Press Association
I’m in no doubt Cyfor Malta was a classier beast than Frodon, but as far as a Gold Cup bid is concerned they are identical. Both had/have connections who want to turn them into Blue Riband winners, when all the evidence tells you they will struggle to last out the testing distance of an extended 3m2f in the Magners-sponsored showpiece.
Frodon will never get an easier lead than he got in the Cotswold Chase, and all credit there goes to the ride of Bryony Frost.
Quite simply that will not happen in the Gold Cup, with defending champion Native River for one sure to harass the suspect stayer under a power-packed Richard Johnson.
Without an easy time of it on the front end, there’s little to no hope Frodon will come from off the pace in a war of staying power. The one time he excelled from off a gallop was over 2m5f in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. But he was all out that day.
Dublin Racing Festival
With the weather as it is, all eyes are on Leopardstown today, with a cracking card full of Grade 1 action. How the authorities must wish it was getting a huge audience on Sky Sports Racing.
An absentee from the opening Grade 1 Novice Hurdle is the exciting Battleoverdoyen, but Commander of Fleet will enjoy going up in trip and the Champion Bumper heroine Relegate is also in the line up.
Elsewhere, Ryania favourite Min goes up against Simply Ned and Saint Calvados in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase at 3.10pm, Le Richebourg – solid in Arkle betting – heads to the Irish equivalent at 3.45pm and supermare Apple’s Jade struts her bits in the Champion Hurdle at 1.25pm.
She is one of four in that event for Gigginstown House Stud, with only six going to post. It’s awesome stuff and reminds us that in just over a month and a half the Cheltenham Festival is upon us. Boom!
Former champion trainer Nicholls is no mug! He’s not a bad trainer at all, having won the Grand National, Gold Cup, Champion Chase and no less than ten renewals of the King George VI Chase.
But Frodon won’t stay in the Gold Cup. And he faces humiliation when old muggins here proves him wrong. No-one cares much about the Ryanair Chase in contrast to the Gold Cup, but that’s the race Frodon is in.
I’m so confident Nicholls is wrong that I have promised him that if Frodon is in the first four – yes the first four – I will spend a morning at his yard shovelling the worst muck he can find. However, if I am right I get a champagne breakfast at Ditcheat stables with a morning on the gallops. I’m already getting my diary ready for my lovely day out!