It’s been a rollercoaster season so far in the National Hunt racing world, filled with terrific highs and devastating lows.
The wonderful thing about horse racing is that there’s feel good story seemingly every week. While several stars have shone brighter than others during the autumn and winter months, Bryony Frost’s emergence at the top of the sport has been a sensational source of inspiration.
Touted as one to watch during her amateur years, Frost made the headlines last year when guiding Present Man to a tremendous triumph in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton. Frost continued to hog the spotlight, riding winner after winner for boss Paul Nicholls. Her latest success came in front of the television cameras at Warwick, as the 22-year-old rode the thoroughly out-of-form Milansbar to an emphatic victory in the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick.
Frost’s greatest moment came at Kempton’s Christmas Festival, as she guided faithful steed Black Corton into battle in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. Up until that point, Lizzie Kelly had been the only female jockey to enter a Grade One winners’ enclosure, having ridden Tea For Two to a history-making win in the same contest back in 2015.
Despite winning five of their six outings together during the calendar year, Frost and Black Corton had still been overlooked by many experts as the starter’s flag dropped. Frost decided to set the pace on her hardy mount and her Kempton rivals soon began to feel the pinch. As challengers fell by the wayside, Bryony stayed cool and collected in the saddle, jumping the last perfectly before pushing her mount on to capture Grade One glory.
It’s not just Bryony Frost’s exploits in the saddle that have won the hearts of the nation. Her affable nature and brazen honesty make her a dream for any journalist to interview and her unwavering enthusiasm for the sport she loves is infectious.
Following her victories, Frost is quick to play down her own role in helping her horses achieve their goals. Her humility has to be applauded, but her success this season has little to do with luck and, as Frost herself puts it, it’s not “all down to the horse”.
Like the rest of the horse racing world, Frost will now set her sights on the Cheltenham Festival. She followed in the footsteps of father Jimmy – who won the Champion Hurdle and the Grand National during his time in the saddle – by guiding Pacha Du Polder to victory in the Foxhunters Chase. However, with the greatest of respect to the Foxhunters, Frost’s success at this year’s Festival could come on a much grander stage.
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Frost has tasted victory with Old Guard this season and she could be tasked with riding him in the Stayers’ Hurdle. All of Present Man’s victories have come over fences, but he retains his novice status over hurdles, so he could be a sneaky outsider to look out for in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
With an appearance in the Gold Cup unlikely, Black Corton will once again present Frost with a chance to become a dual Grade One winner. He’s likely to carry a fairly hefty price to post in the RSA Novices’ Chase, but he’s proven himself to be a top-level competitor and the vast majority of the 70,000 spectators packed into Cheltenham will be hoping the Bryony Frost fairytale can continue.