DESPITE a valiant run Richard Johnson and his mount Native River could only finish fourth in their attempt to retain the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Johnson said he was beaten by 'three top class horses' as the 12/1 Irish challenger Al Boum Photo won the £600,000 Blue Riband event.

Slowly away at the start Native River was unable to take up his normal front-running style until a circuit had gone and he never looked to be travelling as smoothly, despite the heavy rain that had fallen on the day to make the ground more in his favour.

Passed on the way to the second last fence Johnson kept his mount going to finish fourth.

He said: “He was very slow getting out of the gate and I had to really niggle and cajole him. "He has still run a really good race to stay on for fourth, he was just a bit more sluggish and you can’t be in that sort of race, but no excuses he has been beaten by three top class horses”.

Jockey Bryony Frost took the plaudits after an emotional win in Thursday's Ryanair Chase aboard her horse Frodon.

However, they were pushed all the way by the Venetia Williams trained Aso ridden by Charlie Deutsch.

Williams' horse looked like spoiling the party for a few strides after the last fence as they took the lead only for Frodon and Frost to battle back to win the £350,000 chase by a length and a quarter.

Speaking about the Kings Caple runner, Deutsch said: “After the last I did think I had it won and Frodon was put to bed but he wouldn’t go away and Aso’s done nothing wrong, he’s run to the line and run a brilliant race over what is his best trip."

Venetia Williams also saw her Yala Enki run a good Grand National trial when finishing seventh at 100/1 in the Gold Cup.

She said after Aso’s run: “We are just so thrilled with the horse. He jumped magnificently and it was a really strong race this year.”