Bryony Frost, by any standards, had endured a roller-coaster of a week.
Frost had spent three days this week at a hearing into charges of threatening and abusive behaviour towards her by fellow jockey Robbie Dunne, all but one of which he denies.
The case revealed that Frost’s complaint to the British Horseracing Authority had allegedly led to her being ostracised in the weighing room.
Whatever the outcome of the disciplinary panel hearing, which concludes next week, Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase provided an emotional high.
The weight of public sentiment is undoubtedly behind her. That much was clear. It almost brought her to tears.
While hot favourite Chacun Pour Soi failed to fire, Greaneteen turned the Betfair-sponsored Grade One into a procession, sticking on gamely up the famous Sandown hill.
If the emotions were remarkably kept in check by the ultra-professional Frost, the same could not be said for the throng at the Esher track, who greeted the 12-1 winner with rapturous applause.
Upon unsaddling, from above the crowd’s hubbub, a woman in her late twenties hollered: “We support you Bryony! You are doing a great job!”.
“Three cheers for Bryony,” echoed a middle-aged man. The crowd responded accordingly.
Frost was the epitome of professionalism afterwards.
Joyous in victory, she took time to explain how Greaneteen had carried her to victory for another notable milestone – the first woman to ride the winner of the Tingle Creek.
She said: “My biggest mishap was probably on the downhill fence, we were right down on our nose, but he is smart and he is clever and he brought me back up.
“I travelled down the back and coming upsides our stablemate, Hitman, around the home bend, we found two out and found the last, and we just kept coming to the line.
“We crossed the line and it was a moment of relief and also then it starts flooding in that, ‘My God, you’ve just won the Tingle Creek!’. It was awesome.
“I’m feeling like I’m on I’m cloud nine, which consistently happens when you ride for Paul. It is absolutely phenomenal for everyone involved. This horse has taken me to the heights. He is well on the way up.
“I felt the support and that the crowd were right behind me, pushing me forward. I am very privileged that people are behind me and enjoy watching me ride and enjoy the person who I am.”
Nicholls is used to the big days, of course. It was, after all, his 12th Tingle Creek victory.
The fine, young Hitman was second, and there is the promise of many bigger days to come with him.
But for Nicholls this day was a little bit extra special. A treble on the card and four on the day – all on his first afternoon back on track after contracting Covid-19 a fortnight ago.
“We had a nice winner at Chepstow, as well,” he pointed out.
“You just love winning those big races and setting horses out. We mapped out Greaneteen and today he had to be at his best. With his prep run, we didn’t want to ask him too many questions at Exeter. Hitman I really rate. He will get there in a minute.
“It was a tough call, but I made the call on the jockeys. I told Harry (Cobden) about it and he said he did not mind, whatever.
“I said to stick with Hitman, as he will have some good days on him and Bryony had won on Greaneteen, which makes things easier for everybody, and Harry knows full well he will have some super days on Hitman.
“He knows they won’t clash again now until the Champion Chase, so they will probably go different routes now.
“We might go to Ascot with Greaneteen and then the Champion Chase, and Hitman could go to Kempton and then the Game Spirit and Champion Chase.
“We will keep them apart now and see what’s what.”
And while he insists he is better off out of the controversy which has split racing and thrown the spotlight on an issue that will hopefully conclude with a new era of respect, you could see that Frost’s victory meant more to Nicholls than words could say.
He admitted: “She has had a tough week – everybody knows that. I’ve never got involved in it too much all the way along the line because I didn’t want to.
“If she had been a conditional jockey, employed by me, then it might have been different. I have known what is going on, but I didn’t want to get involved. She will come out the other end fine.
“Days like today and the reception she got will help. She has been professional throughout and we will all learn lessons from it.
“Everybody involved will learn lessons from it and we hope we can put it all behind us when the outcome is announced and we can all move forward.
“It was such a great reception for her. You can see how popular she is with the crowd. That is what we need in racing.
“The roar coming up the chute there today was phenomenal. I have never heard anything like it.
“That is good – good for racing. We want people to be connected and enjoy the people in it, albeit me, the horses, or Bryony or Harry Cobden or whatever.”
The roar itself was a throwback to other big days – the four Tingle Creeks won by that standing dish and fan favourite Kauto Star, perhaps?
“Kauto Star was a one-off,” said Nicholls. “When he used to come here and win Tingle Creeks and the Gold Cup, that was different.
“But on a Saturday, like today, with all those people who ran out of the crowd to clap Bryony all the way up that chute, that says a lot.
“Whatever has happened has happened and she will learn from it and we will all have to look forward and enjoy days like today. It’s been a great day.”
And how we needed that after such a testing few weeks for the sport.