There was a fairy-tale sequel yesterday to the story of last year’s Cheltenham Festival after Pacha Du Polder stormed to victory in the Foxhunters Chase.
Almost 12 months to the day since Victoria Pendleton’s stunning fifth place on the same horse barely a year after first learning to ride, Britain’s former track cycling queen watched Bryony Frost steer him home in sensational style.
Sporting identical black, white and red colours to those worn by Pendleton last year, the daughter of 1989 Grand National winner Jimmy Frost snatched the lead at the final fence yesterday before surging clear.
The victory prompted a tearful embrace between Frost and Pendleton in the winners’ enclosure, with the latter exclaiming: “You were amazing! You were really amazing there! Brilliant job!
“He’s such a legend. I went and patted him this morning and was like, ‘Go on. Have a good one. You can do it, Pacha’.”
Frost responded: “It helps when you have a partner like that, eh?”
Revealing Pendleton had also wished her luck before the start, she added: “He’s an old friend to her. He took her on a road of experience and it’s nice to get him the winner he deserves, Pacha.”
It was hard to know which of the women was more delighted by the result of a race an emotional Pendleton – here working for ITV – watched from the parade ring.
“It’s a great win,” the two-time Olympic champion said. “When you’ve worked with a horse, it’s hard not to feel a bit connected to them.
“When you watch the race, you really feel for them. It means a little bit more and you can’t help but get excited when you see them do well.”
She added: “I said, though, in the press conference [last year], ‘If he had a better rider on board, he would have won’.”
Yet, Pendleton was not among those to back the 16-1 shot yesterday, saying: “I honestly haven’t had time. And, to be honest, not that I’m a superstitious person, but I wouldn’t want to put money on Pacha winning.
“I want him to win but I wouldn’t want to jinx it, either.”
She added: “It was so good to see him because he was a lovely horse and he really looked after me. I’ll forever be grateful for him looking after me. He’s such a kind horse.
“I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to ride a horse of that calibre.”
As was Frost, last year’s National Hunt Girls champion who is in her first season riding for, and working as pupil assistant trainer to, the legendary Paul Nicholls.
Comparing it to being a kid in a sweetshop, the 21-year-old said: “You keep watching everybody else getting sweets and then, finally, you get the whole packet.
“Here, the festival, on the horse, and the colours, and for our team at home that we work for, I can’t ask for a better day.”
Revealing that, while she had not sought Pendleton’s advice, she had “analysed all her videos”, Frost added: “He’s got the ability behind him. It’s just whether you can get him on the right day. And, my God, we got him on the right day.”
Like Pendleton, Nicholls revealed he became convinced the 10-year-old gelding was winning material after her rookie ride 12 months ago.
“Last year was brilliant, but he probably could have won,” he said. “Victoria, what she did last year was awesome.
“I believed he could win today on last year’s run, on that ground.”
Applauding Frost for a “a beautiful, beautiful ride”, he added of his protégé: “It’s just nice to give them opportunities and she’ll never forget that.
“This girl’s a really, really good young jockey.”
Her win also made it a record number of victories for female riders at a single festival, following earlier triumphs for Lisa O’Neill and Gina Andrews.
Frost said: “The sport is hard, whether you’re a boy or girl. And a lot of girls say, “I want to ride like a boy’, or, ‘I need to look like a boy’.
“I think it’s all down to the way you ride, your style, and how you click with a horse.”