The Sport Of Queens


Bryony Frost soaks up the cheers of the crowd as she’s led in on Frodon | Racing Post


CHELTENHAM, UK—In the dark old days, women could hold neither a jockey’s licence nor a trainer’s licence but in these enlightened times they do more than hold their own, as Bryony Frost, Lizzie Kelly and Emma Lavelle so deftly illustrated as the Cheltenham Festival rolled through day three.

Frost, whose effervescence is contagious, became the first female jockey to ride a Grade 1 winner over jumps at the Festival when partnering Frodon (Fr) (Nickname {Fr}), who was also recording a first win at the highest level in the Ryanair Chase and his third successive victory at the home of jump racing this season.

The 23-year-old daughter of Grand National-winning jockey Jimmy Frost rode her 100th winner on Sunday after turning professional in the summer of 2017 and for Frost, refreshingly, it is only ever about the horses she rides despite the increasing media furore surrounding her rising career.

“It’s his day,” she said, immediately deflecting a question about her own achievement. “He’s won at the Festival. He’s my partner in crime and, oh my God, did he answer me today. Everything he did out there, we were totally in sync. He’s so on song. The team at Ditcheat had him 200% ready for this and he’s come here in the form of his life. This year he’s better than ever. He’s so intelligent and he just takes it all in.”

Frodon, a customary front-runner, surrendered his lead temporarily to Aso (Fr) between the penultimate and final fences but, as Frost explained eloquently in the post-race debrief, he’s no quitter.

She said, “I don’t know what it is about him but he’s competitive and he’s brave. He loves to be dared. Out in the countryside, he knows the ditches, he knows the water, the first ditch he came to he gave it another foot. He’s just intelligent and so sharp out there. He’s on the right lead on all of the bends and we know every blade of grass together. I thought beforehand that if I’m going to ask him the biggest question of his career it’s going to be at his favourite track and this sure is his favourite track.

“[When he was headed] most horses would have accepted defeat but not Frodon. He said no, and I said no, and for that minute, those few strides, it could have gone the other way, but he grabbed hold of me and said ‘no kid, we keep going, that hill’s still there, there’s still one more to jump and we’re still in it, the line isn’t here yet’. And with his ears flat back on his neck he wanted it more than anyone.”

For trainer Paul Nicholls, who switched Frodon to the Ryanair Chase from Friday’s Gold Cup, it was a second Grade 1 victory in 24 hours following the success of Topofthegame (Ire) (Flemensfirth {Ire}) in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase on Wednesday.

He said, “The decision to go for this race wasn’t difficult in the end with the ground. The good thing is, to win this race, you need something that stays three miles and he got the three. That was perfect and we might look at something different next year.”

Nicholls added, “Bryony deserves it, everyone in the team deserves it and, most of all, the horse deserves it. He is just the most amazing horse you ever want to train. He is not very big and it is a very, very special day.”

Paisley Park Is Prince Of Prestbury
If the 68,000 racegoers at Prestbury Park on Thursday thought they had witnessed the feelgood result of the day in the Ryanair, they quickly returned to their vocal best to welcome back Paisley Park to the winner’s enclosure after an emotional victory in the G1 Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle.

The Emma Lavelle-trained favourite nearly lost his life to colic two years ago but, returned to full health, the 7-year-old has been the star of the staying hurdling division this season, during which he has remained unbeaten in five starts.

Paisley Park is owned by Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind from birth but is a regular racegoer the world over. He named his horse, bought for him as a 3-year-old store at Goffs, after the home of his favourite musician, the late Prince.

He said, “Paisley Park is a bit like [former Stayers’ Hurdle winners] Big Buck’s (Fr) and Baracouda (Fr) in that he does hit a flat spot, but he keeps finding. It was a scary moment when he made a mistake at the last too.

“This has been a brilliant journey and I have enjoyed it all the way. I’ve been to Cheltenham for years and years. It is just something else to be in the winner’s enclosure. I hope this is the first of many because I will keep coming back. We are so chuffed, we’re all in tears.”

Lavelle, who is assisted in her Hampshire stable by her husband and former jockey Barry Fenton, added, “I felt that if the will of the people was anything to go by this horse was going to win. He had so many people behind him and they were probably just blowing him up the hill. It’s just brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I can’t say quite how bad our hangovers are going to be in the morning.”

Kelly Joins The Party
Following moments in the spotlight for Bryony Frost and Emma Lavelle came the turn of Lizzie Kelly, who, in 2015, became the first female jockey to ride a Grade 1 winner over fences in Britain when Tea For Two (GB) (Kayf Tara {GB}) won the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.

Siruh Du Lac (Fr) (Turgeon), trained by Kelly’s stepfather Nick Williams, is another to have gone unbeaten this season and returned to the course after his victory in January to win the G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.

Kelly is the third woman ro ride a winner at Cheltenham this week, with Rachael Blackmore, who currently lies in second in the Irish jump jockeys’ table with 84 winners this season, having struck on A Plus Tard (Fr) (Kapgarde {Fr}) on Tuesday.

Outside the main entrance to Cheltenham, bookmaking firm Paddy Power, which is renowned for its eye-catching publicity stunts, has erected a 7.5-metre statue of Rachael Blackmore with an inscription on the plinth which reads, ‘Some jockeys have big balls, others are just great jockeys’. Indeed.

Doubles And Trebles All Round
Owner JP McManus started the day with a double and ended it by bringing up a treble. Defi Du Seuil (Fr) (Voix Du Nord {Fr}) returned to the Cheltenham winner’s enclosure for the second time after landing the G1 JLT Novices’ Chase for Philip Hobbs and Barry Geraghty. The jockey was back for more in the following race, the Pertemps Network Final, driving Sire Du Berlais (Fr) (Poliglote {GB}) up the hill to give McManus and trainer Gordon Elliott each their third win of the week. Finally, Any Second Now (Ire) (Oscar {Ire}), bred for McManus by his wife Noreen and trained by Ted Walsh, landed the final race of the day, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup under crack amateur Derek O’Connor.

Defi Du Seuil. though just six, is nevertheless a Festival veteran, having won the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle two years ago before missing last year.

“He’s amazing,” said Hobbs. “He’s very, very tough and his jumping is fantastic. Sometimes these smaller horses are better at the whole thing because they are more athletic.

“He only ran twice last season, but the horses weren’t 100% healthy and if they are not, they are not going to win.”

The trainer added, “He’s been our main flagship now for a while. He jumped beautifully and had a great run all the way round—it couldn’t have gone better.”

With 11 wins to his credit from just 16 starts, Defi Du Seuil was a second winner this week for the late Haras de Cercy stallion Voix Du Nord, who was also responsible for Champion Hurdle winner Espoir d’Allen (Fr). He was co-bred by leading French jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot in partnership with his mother Catherine and sister Marie-Gabrielle, and the family later celebrated a double of their own when 5-year-old mare Eglantine Du Seuil (Fr) (Saddler Maker {Ire}), trained by Willie Mullins, was given the verdict over Concertista (Fr) (Nathaniel {Ire}) in the G2 National Hunt Breeders Supported By Tattersalls Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.


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