It had been a long time coming. Frodon’s victory in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton marked the horse’s first win since triumphing in the Ryanair Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. It was a dominant display, leading from the front throughout and winning in fine style to allay, for the time being, any doubts over whether or not Frodon could return to the winner’s enclosure.
“You can ride him with your heart on your sleeve because he allows you to. His jumping is just amazing,” jockey Bryony Frost said after the win. “People are quick to doubt, but you can never doubt your team members – especially one like him.”
Frost and Frodon have always had a unique connection, and this reunion of horse and jockey – it was their first race together since November – proved the special bond that exists between them. It’s that kind of intangible factor that can make the difference in closely-fought races, and Frost’s unwavering positivity is one of her most admirable qualities.
Frost has always demonstrated admirable trust in Frodon, and that brought the pair success at the Cheltenham Festival last year in that Ryanair Chase triumph. It was the culmination of a rise in form by Frodon in the months leading up to the Festival, which included victories in the Gold Cup Handicap Chase and the Cotswold Chase.
That led to victory in the Festival itself, a race in which Frost and Frodon established a strong early pace and maintained it throughout, despite the close attention of Aso as the finish-line came into view. It was a powerful, beautiful display, and the whole race was a great advert for the sport.
But that win feels like a long time ago, and the recent victory at Kempton has come at the perfect time with this year’s Cheltenham Festival looming large on the horizon. Frodon is likely to be among the favourites in the Ryanair Chase once again this year in horse racing odds for UK and Irish racing.
Last year’s victory made history in that Frost became the first woman to win a Grade One race over obstacles at the Cheltenham Festival. It was a win that elevated her to the next level, and another strong performance this year will give her another boost in many people’s estimations.
But Frost’s philosophy has nothing to do with personal glory or a desire for titles and acclamation. Instead, she takes joy in placing all the emphasis on the horses, and her quest is to learn more about her horse and build a connection more solid than the fleeting joys of winning races.
“As a jockey our job is to better our horses’ careers,” Frost said in a Guardian interview. “Every time you go out, you have to think, what can I do better, how can I make it smoother, where can I find his rhythm, does he like his own space or to be in the crowd with the hustle and bustle?
“It’s all about learning their map, and which is the best road to take to get you there as quick as possible. But when you start to develop a connection with your horse and learn his character and the way he likes to do things, and then you click, it’s a magic place to be when you’re out on that track.”
The Kempton win sets Frost and Frodon up for another charge for victory in the Ryanair Chase in March, but, win or lose, Frost’s love and appreciation for her horse will remain undiminished.