“Frodon has got his day. He is Pegasus, he has wings, and he is the most incredible battler. He travelled and by God he jumps. When he got overtaken two out, most horses would quit, but he grabbed me by the hands and said ‘don’t you dare give up, don’t you dare not send me into the last, I want this more than you, now come on’.”
And with those words, delivered ecstatically in a broad West Country accent, Bryony Frost officially etched herself into the hearts of even the most stony faced racing fan.
It wasn’t her first big race win, nor even her first Cheltenham Festival success, but in driving Frodon to victory in the 2019 Ryanair Chase, Frost kicked off the most memorable hour the sport has ever encountered and gained herself a place in the public’s consciousness. In other words, she had become a star.
She rides supremely well for the greatest trainer out there, has a trio of Grade 1 successes on her CV and has the personality to break down barriers and put racing on the front and back pages of newspapers.
And it was Frodon, trained beautifully by Paul Nicholls, who again cast the spotlight on her over Christmas, bagging the King George VI chase at Kempton on Boxing Day with yet another bold jumping exhibition that has become his trademark under Frost.
Now a date with the Cheltenham Gold Cup awaits in March.
So it has been more than a little upsetting and not least a little unnerving to see Frost hit the headlines in both national and trade papers the past three days for an altogether different reason – a seeming unease at some behavior she has experienced in the weighing room.
The British Horseracing Authority is investigating and no official statement has been made, but Bryony herself told The Guardian that she was experiencing some “difficulty” with “ongoing things that need to be sorted out”.
“There are always going to be people who frown,” she added in an interview that seemed to come out of the blue from a rider who genuinely appears to relish every single day she spends in the saddle.
Last night further information was published alleging a confrontation over an on-track incident months ago which led to a weighting room moment with an unnamed colleague.
The lack of established facts is understandable at this stage while racing investigates the latest incident to put a downer on the sport, but it is alarming that someone as high profile, enthusiastic and popular as Frost felt so strongly about something like this that it was worth raising in the national media.
Racing can feel so insular to an outsider, A closed shop to those born neither into the sport nor wealth and although Bryony herself is from racing stock, her unguarded nature and raw personality has allowed those outside to dream and fall in love with the game.
She has managed that rare feat so few in racing achieve. Frankie. Shergar, Arkle, Frankel. Lester. Kauto. Bryony.
Yes she’s a household name to casual fans, so imagine the sour taste those very members of the public woke up to this weekend to find that maybe behind the smile lies a currently troubled jockey who is, at least to some extent, ill at ease at work
Sometimes racing just cannot help but shoot itself in the foot. Let’s hope Bryony is being afforded all the support and understanding possible and can overcome whatever this is.
Let’s hope the situation is resolved and put to bed swiftly and she can once again feel at ease and continue to build on a startlingly successful career that has already yielded 10 Graded winners.
It wouldn’t be right to leave column one without a midweek tip and it is more than worth taking a punt on BILLINGSLEY in the 2.05 at Wetherby.
He ran up a sequence of three wins to end last season, culminating with a gutsy victory in a Class 3 at Newbury under an inspired drive from the much missed Liam Treadwell.
He was travelling well enough when falling on his reappearance at Doncaster and is taken to land a bit of each way thievery today at 13/2 with bet365.
I will back on Friday with a preview of all the ITV action over the weekend which includes three graded races at Warwick topped by the Classic Chase which often has an impact on the Grand National market. See you then.
BY ANDREW MORRIS