Bryony Frost salutes ‘one in a million’ Frodon after historic King George

Few partnerships in racing are as special as the one Bryony Frost enjoys with Frodon and the pair secured another landmark moment with victory in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton.

In a year which has seen Hollie Doyle continue to break new ground on the Flat, the 25-year-old secured two more records of her own with a tenacious two-and-a-quarter-length success aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained 20-1 chance in the Boxing Day highlight.

Not only did the result see Frost become the first female rider to win the historic Grade One contest, it also meant she passed Lucy Alexander’s total of 174 to become the winning-most female jump jockey in Britain – something she only realised she was on the brink of achieving on Christmas Day.

Frost said: “That’s a few boundaries crossed today and a few moulds broken.

“I’ve got a little book at home, dad (Grand National-winning jockey Jimmy Frost) used to do it. It’s a tiny little book and it has got the number of your rides, where it was, the horse, owner and trainer – from my very first pointing ride at Fleet Park, where I fell off at the last, to today.

“To put that in my book and to be thinking how many things we have achieved in one race is great.

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“Hadden (Frost, brother) was on a WhatsApp video call (on Christmas Day) and he said ‘B’ do you realise you are one away from having the most winners as a female jumps jockey (in Britain).

“He said ‘imagine if you did it on Frodon in the King George?’. I just said ‘that doesn’t happen Hadden, stop being so silly’.

“I still can’t believe that me and Frodon can class ourselves a King George-winning pair. To me, though, I’ve won a King George on Frodon for Paul and the team and that is the big thing, regardless of the girl stuff, the winners and history.”

Despite Frodon disappointing at Aintree last time out in a race in which a number of fences were omitted, Frost – whose jubilation was perfectly captured when she exclaimed on ITV immediately afterwards: “We’ve just won the King George!” – was confident from an early stage a different result was in the offing.

She said: “Quite a few people said ‘how do you expect your chances will be?’ and I always say ‘I’m behind him 100 per cent’.

“This isn’t like Aintree. I brushed that under the carpet basically and I pretended like that never happened. I was coming straight from Cheltenham (when a handicap winner under a big weight in October) in my own head, as for a few reasons that (Aintree) didn’t happen for us.

“I thought about the gallop I set at Cheltenham and I weighed up what we did in the Grade Two last season and we tried putting that together and tried to set a gallop that he enjoyed. Once we crossed the sand and he pricked his ears going down to the first, I thought ‘we are on’.

“Santini was a small irritation for him as I couldn’t quite get the breathers I wanted to, but he came here in such rude health he just stuck his elbow out and kept moving forward the whole way.”

Bryony Frost and Frodon have an unbreakable bond
Bryony Frost and Frodon have an unbreakable bond (David Davies/PA)

Part of what makes Frodon and Frost so special is the understanding between them – something the rider, who picked up a two-day ban for careless riding, feels has been integral to the success they have enjoyed on the track.

She said: “I know his limits as well as he does mine. We know how each other think out there, and when it is going right and when it isn’t. When it is right we are right on and when it isn’t I look after him, like I did at Aintree. He is one in a million.

“Every horse has their differences. A horse like him is extremely special. I would struggle to find any animal or human that would mean what he does to me – he understands me and I understand him. I will probably get the mickey taken out of me for talking about a horse like that, comparing him as a human. I feel you shouldn’t be in the game if you didn’t love your horses and I adore him.”

Another step forward will be required for Frodon to triumph in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March – but having already become the first female jockey to ride a Grade One winner over jumps at the meeting, when the duo won last year’s Ryanair Chase, Frost feels anything is possible.

She said: “Kempton isn’t our favourite track. We’ve come to a different stomping ground, which in my opinion is the wrong way (right-handed). Cheltenham is his playground, he absolutely adores it.

“It’s a different race entirely, to me though why not? I feel like he is just loving his racing career, so why not give him the chance to tackle the big guns on the big stage. You wouldn’t question his stamina today, he has run away with me the whole way.

“If Paul says we are going for the Gold Cup, I will follow him blind.”

King George will be run behind closed doors

Kempton’s Ladbrokes Christmas Festival will be staged behind closed doors following the latest announcement from the Government on areas of England which are to move to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

While nearby London moved to Tier 3 earlier this week, with the Sunbury track being in Surrey – at that time in Tier 2 – a crowd of up to 2,000, albeit not racegoers from the capital itself, was still set to attend the showpiece fixture which features the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

However, the announcement to the House of Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday that Surrey will now join Tier 3 means no crowd will be permitted.

A spokesperson for the track’s owners, Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “We know that racing fans will be disappointed to be missing out on some thrilling live action over the Christmas period, especially having only just been allowed to return to our venues in very limited numbers.

Clan Des Obeaux won last year's King George in front of packed grandstands
Clan Des Obeaux won last year’s King George in front of packed grandstands (Steven Paston/PA)

“However, we recognise we must all play our part in tackling this pandemic and look forward to welcoming racegoers back to our courses as soon as we’re able to do so.”

Ascot’s pre-Christmas fixture this weekend has also been affected by the latest developments.

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A statement from the track read: “The Government confirmed today that the local authority in which Ascot is situated (Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead) will formally move into Tier 3 of Covid restrictions at midnight on Friday, December 18 which automatically means that the public cannot be admitted to Ascot on Saturday, December 19, day two of the December Racing Weekend.

Crowds will be absent from Ascot this weekend
Crowds will be absent from Ascot this weekend (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Ascot has consulted with Public Health England and its Safety Advisory Group, and the advice received is that it should not to be open to the public tomorrow, Friday, December 18, day one of the December Racing Weekend. Therefore, Ascot will not be admitting the public for Friday’s racing.

“Cases in the south of England have risen over 40% in the last week and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is now in a very high-risk area.

“Ascot is sorry that that it has to deliver this news to people looking forward to coming racing this weekend.”

Newbury’s Challow Hurdle card on December 29 is another which will be without racegoers over the festive period, as will the Tolworth Hurdle fixture at Sandown on January 2.

Newbury is another track forced to move behind closed doors
Newbury is another track forced to move behind closed doors (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Newbury tweeted: “Following the recent Government update regarding West Berkshire moving into Tier 3 from Saturday 19 December from 00.01hrs, communications will be issued to all those with a ticket or hospitality booking for MansionBet Challow Hurdle Day on Tuesday 29 December 2020.”

Sandown wrote: “Following the news that @Sandownpark is in a Tier 3 area of England, we are unable to welcome spectators to the racecourse.

“We will be in touch with anyone who has already purchased a ticket for a fixture now affected, and a refund will be automatically processed.

“We look forward to welcoming racegoers again when it’s safe and appropriate to do so.”

Hereford racecourse is now in Tier 1 one of coronavirus restrictions
Hereford racecourse is now in Tier 1 one of coronavirus restrictions (Tim Goode/PA)

A total of 15 tracks with winter fixtures will continue to have crowds under the current restrictions, including Cheltenham, who race next on New Year’s Day.

All of those courses are in Tier 2, with the exception of Hereford which has moved into a Tier 1 area and will now be allowed as many as 4,000 spectators at its next meeting, which is scheduled for January 2.

No courses that were in Tier 3 have moved to a lower tier.

Frodon set to be part of three-pronged King George bid for Nicholls

Frodon is on course to further strengthen trainer Paul Nicholls already enviable hand in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton.

The 2019 Ryanair Chase winner is being readied to join Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the Grade One prize for the past two years, and fellow stablemate Cyrname, in the Boxing Day showpiece.

After successfully carrying top-weight in a handicap on his return at Cheltenham, the Paul Vogt-owned eight-year-old beat only one home back at Grade Two level in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree – a run Nicholls is keen to put a line through.

Nicholls said: “It was almost a waste of time going to Aintree as the same thing happened there last season in the Old Roan with the fences in the home straight taken out.

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“He will run in the King George I would imagine next, as the owner is keen to have a go there.

“He took the race fine at Aintree fine, but he just threw his toys out of the pram when he got headed. It doesn’t suit him when those fences come out.

“I should have phoned up and said take him out as taking fences out for a horse like him that jumps well doesn’t help.”

A trip to Kempton is on the cards for Shloer Chase runner-up Duc Des Genievres and also Diego Du Charmil, with the Ditcheat handler earmarking the Grade Two Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase on December 27 for the pair.

He said: “This is the ideal race to run Duc Des Genievres and Diego Du Charmil will go there as well.

“Duc Des Genievres did surprise me how well he ran in the Shloer.

“He is bound to have come on for it and if the ground had been slightly better at Cheltenham on the last day he would have just about lasted home.”

Greaneteen will have a short break before being aimed at the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Greaneteen will have a short break before being aimed at the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Tingle Creek runner-up Greaneteen will bid to add to his Haldon Gold Cup success at Exeter by advancing his Queen Mother Champion Chase claims in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February.

Nicholls said: “The plan is to leave Greaneteen until the Game Spirit. He is only a six-year-old and he has already had a couple of hard races and I don’t want to overdo it with him.

“There is a lot to come from him yet and he will definitely be treated as a Queen Mother horse.

“He will keep on improving, he just wasn’t good enough on the day in the Tingle Creek but he is taking steps forwards all the time and slightly better ground would suit him.”