Frost is Ready to Make History at Cheltenham
It’s no secret that the Cheltenham Festival is the crowning glory of the National Hunt season. Offering four days of extraordinary on-track action, it draws audiences from around the globe and provides an atmosphere of absolute exhilaration, not just for those lucky enough to witness it in the flesh, but for millions of television viewers across the world too.
The horses who attend are the jump racing elite: equine athletes par excellence. With a power and beauty to rival any other creature or creation on earth, the sight of these Thoroughbred megastars pounding down the home stretch in full flight is enough to set our hearts aflutter, and there’s one horse, in particular, we’re getting excited about – the inimitable Frodon.
Having already secured victory at Aintree last October, the seven-year-old gelding by Nickname and his jockey Bryony Frost have now earned their first tilt at the Gold Cup, following their fourth victory at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Frodon wins his fourth Cheltenham victory
Source: Facebook via Cheltenham Racecourse
In a performance that was nothing short of magnificent, Bryony Frost and her erstwhile partner Frodon used their performance in Saturday’s Cotswold Chase to remind us all of exactly what makes this duo so special.
Competing on Festival Trials Day in the hopes of earning a place in the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup, the pair scored their fourth victory at the racetrack.
Frodon delivered a noteworthy performance, repelling the charge of talented Welsh Grand National victor Elegant Escape to seize the win for himself. Cutting it slightly fine towards the end, he won by three-quarters of a length – an admirable feat considering the calibre of his closest rival.
Trainer Paul Nicholls announced that the victory was enough to earn the pair a tilt at the Gold Cup in six weeks’ time, with sites like Oddschecker, which offer handy comparisons between various bookmakers, showing his odds have been cut to as little as 14-1 in some instances.
Bringing female jockeys into the spotlight
Whilst Frodon is undeniably a force of nature, much of the credit for his incredible run of performances must go to his jockey, Bryony Frost. Although Frost has always gone to pains to credit the horse with their combined successes, there are many who say that this is simply a symptom of her humble and self-effacing personality.
Indeed, Frost is a real talent in her own right, one who is doing much to propel female jockeys out of the Gold Cup cold and into the warmth of a string of high-profile wins.
This is a phenomenon that is long overdue, for though it has been 35 years since Jenny Pitman entered the history books as the first female to train a Gold Cup winner – the brilliant Burrough Hill Lad – jockeys from the fairer sex have rarely taken part.
In fact, unlike the Grand National, which has had many women aboard its mounts, the Gold Cup has had only two female competitors in the entirety of its long history: Welsh housewife Linda Sheedy on outsider Foxbury in 1984, and Lizzie Kelly on Tea for Two in 2017.
A shot at history
Source: Facebook via Bryony Frost Fans
What’s different about Frost and Frodon is that the two are in with a legitimate shot of making history: not as the third jockey and horse partnership to run in the Gold Cup, but potentially, as winners.
Saturday’s Betbright Trial Costwold Chase is arguably a dress rehearsal for National Hunt’s blue riband – the Gold Cup itself – and with victory in one already in their possession, it seems eminently possible that Frost could well become the first female to cross the line at the head of the field.
Indeed, seven-year-old Frodon made Saturday’s triumph look like a walk in the park, jumping for fun and pinging the last fence five lengths clear. Despite admirable opposition from Elegant Escape, he nonetheless finished with three-quarters of a length to spare, and lots more left in the bag.
As trainer Paul Nicholls explains: “[Frodon]… loves the track. He was idling and tiring from the back of the last but it’s difficult when you’re bringing them back after a bit of a break. He didn’t do much for a month after his last run but he’s proved he stays.”
He added: “He’s such a genuine horse. He and Bryony get on really well and he loves life. The pair of them are both good for racing.”
A winning partnership
Nicholls is not the only one to have commented on the fantastic rapport between the gelding and his jockey. Frost herself has described Frodon as “a complete pleasure to ride”, “brave”, and “awesome”.
The 23-year-old says: “I’ve never ridden a horse with a heart like that. He was getting a bit lonely in front but when he felt company he kicked on.”
In tune with her mount, as she is, it’s also heartening to hear the talented rider say that the bay gelding loves both the course and racing – two assuredly vital elements in any would-be Gold Cup winner.
A second shining star
Frodon was not the only runner to impress on trials day. Paisley Park has also sparked much conversation after sauntering to a phenomenal 13-length win in the Cleeve Hurdle – marking him out as a sure prospect for the Festival itself.
The Emma Lavelle seven-year-old has improved rapidly this season, having been so far unbeaten in four starts. This last performance was so astonishing that it allowed him to leapfrog the reigning champion, Penhill, to become the new favorite in the Stayers Hurdle, with odds of 4-1.
Lavelle herself claims to have waited 21 years for a horse with so much natural talent and given his seemingly effortless performances so far, it’s no wonder she’s getting excited about him.
With the likes of both Frodon and Paisley Park promising to do great things, the Cheltenham Festival is shaping up to be as exciting as ever. We wait with bated breath to see whether history will be made, but know that even if it isn’t this time around, the action will still be as phenomenally thrilling as ever.