SHE has been one of the shining lights of this jumps season and on Saturday Bryony Frost bids to win the biggest race of them all – the Randox Health Grand National.
Enthusiastic, entertaining and superbly talented, Frost, whose exploits on Black Corton have been particularly impressive, will partner Classic Chase winner Milansbar at Aintree.
We spoke to Frost about the Grand National, her chances of winning the race and just what it has been like for her this season.
It has been an incredible 12 months for you. For context, what were you doing on Grand National day last year?
That’s a good question! I was working in the yard at home and I would have watched the race on the TV during my lunch break.
Your success this season seems to have been universally well received. What have you made of the goodwill towards you?
It’s awesome isn’t it? I’m just me. I don’t see myself as being different and people seem to have got on well with me and liked what I’ve done. It’s great they’ve been able to enjoy the incredible partnerships I’ve been lucky to have with these amazing horses. I try to let people into my world so they can see it as I see it and it’s cool if they like that.
You speak about horses like they are people. Does that help your partnership with them?
There are not many other sports where your partner has his own mind, he can’t talk to you and could do whatever he wants yet he decides still to agree with you. I find that incredible about horses. It’s a beautiful, uncontrollable thing and it’s an exciting thing – the unknown.
Looking ahead to the Grand National, how are you feeling about riding in the race?
I’m excited and I’m concentrating on making sure I get there. All the normal routine things I’d do before any day at the races I’m doing for this weekend. I’ve been finding out how the horse is, making sure I eat well, that I sleep well and that I look after myself. A very wise man Michael Dickinson told me a lot of success is down to the amount of hours you can have lying down on your pillow asleep. Your body is your career when you’re a jockey and you have to make sure you’re 100 per cent.
How keen have you been to try and learn from those around you?
I’m a really lucky person to have so many wise people around me who know as much as they do. I try to become a sponge. I’m nearly 23 but I try to make it more than that by using other people’s experiences to learn from them both positively and negatively. You have to learn from mistakes because sometimes you learn more from mistakes than you do by just winning all the time.
Your father Jimmy Frost won the 1989 Grand National on Little Polveir. Have you been getting advice from him about the race?
Dad is like gold dust. Who better to be able to ask every single question you could possibly have for the Grand National than your own Dad? I’ve been doing that ever since I first pointed to a picture of Little Polveir when I could probably just about stand and talk. You could argue that this has been a long time coming.
And how do you rate your chances in the Grand National on Milansbar?
I think he’s a perfect partner for me, hopefully. He’s got size, he’s got experience and he’s jumped plenty of fences in his career so he knows himself and his limits. He knows he can go short and he can go long and he has his own mind. As long as we’re on the same wavelength, that he’s enjoying himself and that we’re agreeing with each other the we should be okay. It’s about getting him in his own rhythm, in a pocket where he’s comfortable and the adrenaline flowing and we’ll see how far he can take me.
Who do you think is your biggest rivals in the race?
There’s 40 horses lining up to go four-and-a-quarter miles over 30 fences, so there are a lot of uncontrollables in the race. You could spend your time concentrating on who might be the danger horse and then he ends up being brought down at the first fence. You only worry about who’s around you when you actually start racing as the first couple of miles you just want to keep out of trouble and pray for luck. It’s not like a normal race as there’s so much that can happen.
It has been a remarkable season for you. Did you ever expect it could be like this?
You never try to expect anything or to be this person or to win anything because there’s so much out of your control. If you think about it too much you can end up seeing yourself as a failure and nobody likes that. I just try and concentrate on every step at a time, so as long as I’m improving and doing the best for the teams supporting me and the horses I’m riding then I’m happy. My priority is to make the most of every chance I’m given.
And, finally, a word on Black Corton. He is a special horse for you isn’t he?
He’s been a massive partner for me in my career and I wouldn’t have the career I do without that little man. He’s the biggest feather in my cap and I’m so, so proud of him. He’s achieved so much more than anyone ever thought and I’ll always be in his debt. I wish he could understand what I say about him and I try to tell him as best I can. He’s a magnificent little chap and if I can be anything like him during my career then I’ll be doing alright.