Bryony Frost interview: Winning at Cheltenham was a fairytale moment

Marcus Armytage
The Telegraph
Bryony Frost bounced back from the disappointment of a broken collarbone to win at Cheltenham - Getty Images Europe
Bryony Frost bounced back from the disappointment of a broken collarbone to win at Cheltenham - Getty Images Europe

If ever proof was needed of the rollercoaster nature of a jump jockey’s career, then Bryony Frost's experience back in March provides it.

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In the space of four days she went from the career high of riding Frodon to victory in the Ryanair Chase in front of 60,000 people at Cheltenham to less glamorous Southwell the following Monday where, in front of one man and his dog, a fall from Midnight Bliss left her collarbone in bits.

Thursdays at Cheltenham are supposed to be the meeting’s quiet day but in one gloriously triumphant hour Frost became the first female jockey to win a Grade One over jumps at the Festival. Within 35 minutes, blind owner Andrew Gemmell had won the Stayers Hurdle with Paisley Park to seal racing’s most satisfactory hour of 2019.

“Going to Cheltenham I was really relaxed about it and I always say for every great triumph there’s usually a big defeat beforehand and that exactly what had happened to us,” reflected the nominee for BT’s Action Woman of the Year Award.

“At Cheltenham in November I’d just lost my claim, he was off top-weight and the owners were loyal to keep me on him in the BetVictor Gold Cup. We finished second, staying on, and the day after I sat down with Paul [Nicholls] in the office and we decided we could be braver and ask more of him.”

With more forcing tactics Frodon returned in December to win the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and in January to win the Cotswold Chase and arrived at the Festival on something of a roll.

“In the Ryanair I knew everything I’d ask for he’d answer so I went out there to gallop and jump and see how long we could go for. When we turned in and he got headed [by Aso] I felt it was slipping away.

<span>Frost celebrates after winning the Ryanair Chase on Frodon </span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Frost celebrates after winning the Ryanair Chase on Frodon Credit: Getty Images

“Not many horses will battle back once headed and coming to two out thinking you’ll get beat is a hard place to come back from but he did, and he battled. To say it was an unbelievable moment is not giving it justice. It was a fairytale moment, they’re written about and you watch them but you never believe it’s going to happen to you.

“He’ll always be one of my diamonds, even on dark days. It’s still talked about, little snippets pop up and I still get goose-bumps about it. Frodon himself is a very intelligent athlete, he knows how to perform at his peak, you enjoy the ride and it’s the best seat in the house being on the top of him.”

Bouncing back from injury has to be a jockey’s stock in trade and last season Frost, 24, spent five months side-lined by injury, rode for several months of it with a fractured shoulder blade and still won the conditional jockeys’ championship.

In the summer of 2018 she had fractured her sternum, her T8 and T7 vertebrae, lacerated her pancreas and her liver and had an aneurysm in between the two organs when her saddle had slipped at Newton Abbot which had kept her out for nearly four months.

Victory on Present Man in the Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton announced that return while winning the Oaksey Chase on Black Corton at Sandown on her first ride back after five weeks out with the Southwell collarbone is a victory she rates in importance only just behind Frodon’s.

“It was a funny season, amazing but frustrating, one that taught me a lot of lessons, patience really. The one in the summer took a long time to come back from. Internal stuff’s difficult because you can’t see it and it’s frustrating when they tell you not to walk over 200 m because your heart rate will go too high.

“With the collarbone I struggled because had only just got my wheels turning again so took I myself out of the bubble, disappeared, did my own stuff at a health hotel in Miami.

“I was on 49 winners rolling into Sandown. Blackie hadn’t won that season, he’d run good races in defeat not quite getting our day. People were dissing him a little and I’d taken great offence about that.

“I remember going down to the start, just getting comfy again, getting your goggles down. As soon as we sailed out over the first, it was back where I wanted to be. It’s the only place in the world where you think you’re living.

“And when we jumped out over the last I couldn’t see anyone. For me that was a very big moment, it proved we could get back up and still do our best by our horse.”

One thing which sets Frost apart from most of her male and female counterparts is how she articulates a jockey’s relationship with a horse in a race. “I love letting people into my world though my eyes and show them doing something you love is what you want to achieve.”

She does not see herself as a role-model for women in the sport. “Yes I’m a girl and as a kid I’ve never seen myself any different from anyone else. I’ve always kept up with my older brothers through my life, I never thought I’d be held back because I was a girl or have advantages because I was a girl.

“I just thought if I could do me and do it the best I can and try and help people and be helped then you’ll get to where ever you want to go. Jockeys are all individuals. It’s like handwriting, we all ride differently and all horses are different.

“I don’t think a girl has to win Grand National, I’m proud as punch to say my dad [Jimmy in 1989] won it, I used to fluff my feathers up when I was young about that. There are boundaries to broken but that happens on a daily basis, sometimes small and sometimes big. In my head there’s no real turning point. If you’re good enough the opportunities come to you, sometimes life’s unfair and throws curve balls at you with injuries, but you’ve just got to keep kicking.”

  • The Telegraph is proud to partner the BT Sport Action Woman Awards. To vote for your 2019 BT Sport Action Woman of the Year from the shortlist of Dina Asher-Smith, Pippa Funnell, Jade Jones, Lucy Bronze, Jamie Chadwick, Dame Sarah Storey, Bryony Frost and Katarina Johnson-Thompson visit btsport .com/actionwoman2019

Action woman awards
Action woman awards

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