'I receive a lot of letters and always write back' – read the Bryony Frost Q&A
Lee Mottershead talks to the rising star of the saddle and rider of Black Corton
This interview was first published in the 2018 Weekender Cheltenham Ultimate Guide, available in all good newsagents from Friday, March 2, priced at £3.25 (€4 in ROI)
In most years racing fans would be horrified to see frost making major headlines at the Cheltenham Festival. This time, however, the situation is rather different.
The biggest human star of this jumps season has been Bryony Frost. Having enjoyed a significant boost to her career when landing the 2017 St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase on Pacha Du Polder, the 22-year-old has since switched from the amateur to professional ranks with tremendous success. One high-profile victory has followed another, with plenty of them secured on leading festival fancy Black Corton.
Not surprisingly, the Paul Nicholls team member is rather excited about what’s to come.
You have become racing royalty this year. How does it feel to be the sport’s new favourite person?
I think that’s just your opinion! It’s really cool that everyone has been jumping and running with me. Why they are, I have no idea! I don’t mind letting people into my world, as I think it’s an awesome one to be in. If I can shine a little light into what I do, who I am and why I am, then I’m happy.
How has your life changed in recent months?
I still do what I love. I muck out my five horses morning and afternoon, and if I’m at the races but can get back to the yard before 5.30pm I always do – I would be told off by Clifford Baker if I didn’t! Nobody has changed how they treat me, although my phone is a lot busier. I also receive a lot of letters and always write back. I wouldn’t be where I am without the help I’ve received, so if I can give a bit back I will.
What are your long-term ambitions?
I believe if you set goals there’s a ceiling. I never want to stop improving. You might as well quit if you think you’re good enough because you never are.
Could you see a woman being crowned champion jockey in the relatively near future?
To be champion takes a bit of doing, no matter who you are, boy or girl.
What were your emotions following Pacha Du Polder’s Foxhunter triumph?
The whole point of my life is to make memories – and he made some incredible ones for me. He is now like a superhero in the yard. I would describe Pacha as an older chap who has a whisky in his big armchair at six o’clock. If you said something was white he would say it was black. He has very strong opinions and normally expresses them with a frown, but he has a kind eye that tells you if you needed help he would give it to you. He certainly helped me at the festival.
What are your earliest and favourite Cheltenham Festival memories?
I would say when my brother Hadden won on Buena Vista. I roared down the roof of our house. After the race I folded a bed sheet in half and used felt tips to draw a picture of them jumping the final flight and added the words: ‘Welcome home Hadden and Buena Vista!’ That night we all had cottage pie and watched the replay multiple times.
Black Corton has been such a star this season. Was there any hint early at how good he would become?
Definitely not. He’s a funny little thing. He’s got the biggest lugs and a funny little waddle. At home he just goes about his business and does what he needs to do but at the end of three miles he delivers a gear I find astonishing. Blacky is now one of the coolest people in the yard. He’s the boy or girl you want to hang out with at school. Every time you ask more of him he gives it to you. There aren’t many horses or humans in the world you can say that about. I say he’s one of my best mates because he is. I’ll never again have anyone like him in my career, even if I’m lucky enough to sit on superstars.
Could you see him winning the RSA Chase?
Anything is possible. Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t swap him for any other horse.
What about Frodon in the Ryanair Chase?
He ran a great race at Ascot, when things didn’t pan out ideally. The horses we thought would be the front-runners jumped off slowly, which led to him running freely for the first half mile, but he still held his own in a very good Grade 1. If the guys take the Ryanair route I’m sure we would be confident of a big run, especially as he loves Cheltenham.
Are there any Paul Nicholls-trained dark horses you could see going close at the festival?
I would say Virak for the Foxhunter. I rode him as an amateur at Cheltenham in April, when he travelled brilliantly until the race became a bit too hard for him. In the unsaddling enclosure Paul asked if I thought the Foxhunter would be right for him. I said yes immediately. That has always been the plan and his confidence has built up. He would need rain, though.
How do you relax outside of racing?
I love climbing. I go to a really cool old church in Bristol that has been converted into a number of different climbing walls. In Devon I was five minutes away from 12 different tors, so I would go mad. Around here the Cheddar Gorge is great fun to climb. It’s good for your fitness but also brilliant for your head, as all you’re ever thinking about is your next move. When you get to the top it’s quite a buzz. I also enjoy mountain biking and surfing – anything outdoors really.
What have been the best bits of advice given to you by your dad?
Dad has always taught me to concentrate on every step you take. One of the main things I stick to is to concentrate on the hand that gives you the money, not the money that comes from the hand. I take that to mean concentrate on your team.
Have you missed taking part on the point-to-point circuit?
I made some good friendships point-to-pointing and I really appreciated what the sport gave me, but I’m also always trying to improve, so while point-to-pointing was the road that got me to where I am now, I wouldn’t want to walk the same ground again. That would mean taking a backward step.
What will be your daily routine during the festival?
The same as every other racing day! Get up, muck out, ride one or two, then quickly get changed and try to look vaguely smart if possible before kicking on to the races. Once there, I always do the same thing, which is walk the course, talking to Dad for the first mile and then Paul – if I’m riding one of his – for the second mile. If my jockey coach Mick Fitzgerald is there I’ll speak to him, too. I’ll then go back to the weighing room and have a cup of tea with about six sugars in it. I’ll have no teeth left soon! I usually then stretch, focus and ride my horse. I know I’ll be more revved up at the festival but Dad will remind me I’m doing the same job against the same jockeys and that I should do it the same way. He’ll say to just ride my race as usual. I can guarantee he’ll say that to me at the start of the week!
Who will be the next big breakthrough jockey? Have you seen the next Bryony Frost waiting in the wings?
Paul is fantastic at training horses but also fantastic at developing the careers of young jockeys, as is Clifford [Baker]. They have been massive in my career, so I believe anyone else in that team has a fighting chance of success.
There must be a good chance you’ll have a ride in the Grand National. How excited about that are you?
It would be cool! I’m definitely hoping there will be a ride for me – on which horse I don’t know as that’s down to Paul and Clifford. To line up on any horse in the National and then run down to that first fence would be very memorable indeed.
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