It has been a year for female jockeys smashing the glass ceiling that, to some extent, still exists in horse racing and sport in general.
First, Hollie Doyle finished third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award – an extraordinary achievement for somebody not all that well known outside of racing, and testament to the scale of her exploits on the track after another record-breaking campaign.
And now, Bryony Frost – already no stranger to making her mark in a supposedly man’s world – has added her name to the 2020 roll of honour after a stunning ride in the King George Chase on Boxing Day.
She took the ride on her usual mount Frodon, who many had written off after a couple of below-par showings in the Ryanair Chase and the Many Clouds Chase this year.
And even after hitting the front at Kempton in the King George, it seemed likely that he would be chased down given that Clan Des Obeaux – seeking a hat-trick of wins in the race – and Saint Calvados were both in close proximity.
But Frodon ran on hard, pushed all the way by Frost, and in the end he clung on to a remarkable victory to have his backers – who were able to get on at 20/1 – dancing a festive jig.
Paul Nicholls, who also had Clan Des Obeaux and second-favourite Cyrname in the field, could scarcely believe his eyes that his third string entry took the tape in first to land his twelfth winner in the Christmas showpiece. “It’s amazing – although obviously he’s a very good horse on his day,” he said.
“He loves it round here, and I said to Bryony: ‘Just go as quick as you can, keep galloping and sail on – you know he’s tough and brave.’
“You’ve just seen today what a remarkable horse he is. He never knows when he’s beaten.”
The remarkable performance had Nicholls thinking of a tilt at the Gold Cup in March. “He’s beaten some very good horses there fair and square and that form puts him right in the Gold Cup picture. He loves Cheltenham, he is better there than anywhere and he keeps surprising everyone.”
No Winter of Discontent for Frost
With her win, Frost became the first female jockey to triumph in the King George, and came nearly two years after she and Frodon made history in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival – that made her the first winner of a Grade One race in history.
The King George triumph was the 175th of her career, confirming her status as the finest female jockey on the National Hunt circuit in history. And whatever she goes on to achieve, there’s no doubt who Frost’s favourite horse will remain.
“I have had the absolute best time going round there on him [Frodon],” Frost said afterwards with her customary beaming smile. “He has just smashed everyone’s expectations. I don’t argue with him too much as he is his own personality.
“I cannot stress how much this horse means to me – he is my life. You dream as a little girl to ride a horse like this.”