Frost fights back tears after Tingle Creek victory

Bryony Frost fought back tears as she received a rousing reception from a sell-out crowd at Sandown Park on Saturday after steering Greaneteen to the second Grade One success of his career in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase. 

All eyes in the build up to the race were on the Willie Mullins-trained Chacun Pour Soi, who was sent off 8-13 favourite to give the Closutton handler his first victory in the race since landing the 2016 renewal with Un De Sceaux.

However, it was not to be for the Irish raider as Frost wrote her own piece of history by becoming the first female jockey to win the prestigious race. Greaneteen’s victory formed the first leg of what would be become a 1,169-1 treble on the day for trainer Paul Nicholls. 

Having enjoyed an easy time out in front early on in the extended 1m 7f prize the writing was soon on the wall for the odds-on favourite, who made a mistake at the eighth fence, after which point he was quickly on the back foot. 

As the field began to bunch rounding the home turn it soon became apparent that Frost and Greaneteen were to play a leading role in the finish, together with stablemate Hitman and recent Naas scorer Captain Guinness from the Henry de Bromhead yard.

Motoring on between the final two fences the 12-1 chance, who finished fourth when attempting to defend his Haldon Gold Cup crown at Exeter last month, was not for stopping on this occasion with Frost steering her mount to glory by five and a half lengths from trainer Paul Nicholls’ other runner Hitman. 

Victory in the race was the sixth Grade One win of Frost’s career and she said: “I can’t tell you what it means. I was nearly in tears coming in. To feel the support of everyone here is huge and I could hardly talk to Alice (Plunkett, ITV) coming in because I wanted to appreciate everybody! 

“They appreciate me and I ride horses and it’s the best life. I can say I do that as a job and it’s a special place to be.”

Frost went on to say the crowd’s reaction after clearing the first left her fearing she and Greaneteen would be caught on the run-in.

She explained: “I can’t speak! When I landed after the last I thought somebody was going to come and get me. I could hear them and the crowd and I thought ‘Oh my God! Someone has to get me’. He jumped and he travelled and I can’t tell you - it’s absolutely brilliant.

“Being on the back of a horse is the most blissful place you can be. You’ve got to take yourself … and it’s what I’ve done since I was little. You get to go out there and you jump and gallop and enjoy yourself. 

“You let your thoughts go to the side and there’s no other place like it, when you’re gunning for him and he’s gunning for you and you leave everything out there and ride and aim for that winning post.”

After partnering Greaneteen to glory in the bet365 Celebration Chase over course and distance on good ground in April, the Cheltenham Festival-winning rider was slightly concerned conditions might work against her mount on this occasion. 

She added: “Against Altior he set off at a great gallop and if you watch the speed of the race we never came under 28mph. 

“I know that’s on better ground but it was very quick and watching his replays here, it’s a lovely start because he’s got the hill and I can let him settle into the race and then move to the pace instead of starting with it and wrestling him. 

“I got the last but it felt very lonely up the hill and we were fighting for everything we were worth!

“The ground out there is very testing, which was a concern of mine obviously from coming here at the end of April and winning on good ground. You had to think that that was our major factor and the biggest hindrance to us, but he settled very quickly.

“Our jumping - there was a few moments down the back there on the fence along the side and he was right down on his nose. But he was a good boy and came back up. We were like a submarine emerging at that point and I thought, ‘Thank God – I hope that’s our scariest moment’ and then turning in we had our stablemate (Hitman) right beside us.

“We soared out over two, we’ve come down to the last and found it and then from the back of the last I thought, ‘Oh God. This seems like it’s a mile long!’ But we found the line and then pulling up, in these big races sometimes you say it’s a relief and then it floods in like a waterfall. 

“You think, ‘this is the Tingle Creek, this is what you’ve watched as a kid, this is one of the biggest races and we’ve just been able to win it for our boss, Paul, and for a horse like him it’s massive’.

“I got to ride him in some of his early days and then I got to ride him at the end of April and I thought, ‘my God, you’re so fast!’. And then today he’s proved that that was no fluke and he’s one on the way up.”

Frost also praised Nicholls for the preparation which went into getting Greaneteen right for the race.

She went on: “In terms of training we went to Exeter and had to give away 17lbs that day which was a lot of weight - he’s come here and they knew he was 100 per cent.

“Trudy rides him every day at home and Chloe looks after him. The team at home is phenomenal and I couldn’t do it without them – or Paul and his training to make sure his horses are right.

“He was boisterous about him and was clear that this was the horse that was coming for this.”

Ditcheat handler Nicholls was registering a record extending 12th victory in a race he has claimed with the likes of Kauto Star and Master Minded and it was his first day back on track after testing positive for Covid-19 a fortnight ago.

He said: “It has been the worst 10 days of my life. You imagine me stuck indoors for 10 days! I stuck by it. It was a long 10 days but it is nice to come back to this. 

“Greaneteen has improved from when we started chasing and today was the best I’ve seen him look. He’s had a great prep and the run at Exeter was just what we wanted. The improvement since then has been enormous. 

“I told everyone exactly what we were doing and that he’d need that run on route to the Tingle Creek and since that day we’ve not missed it, he was ready for his life today. 

“It takes a number of years to learn how to get the best out of them, that’s the key to it all and I think we’ve got there with him really. 

“When he went by the winning post he was dead relaxed and that run at Exeter took the freshness out of him, if he’s too fresh he doesn’t quite get the finish whereas today he did and finished strong.

“It has been a difficult week for Bryony but she has handled it well and I don’t think any of us would like to be in that position. But when you come back in and ride a Grade One winner today that says everything about her how professional she is.”

Having watched Greaneteen chase home stablemate Politologue in the race 12 months ago Nicholls now feels that the Chris Giles-owned seven year old is now a much different horse. 

He added: “We had no belief in him last year, that’s probably half the problem. He was only beaten two lengths last year, which wasn’t far and then of course we went on to win here. 

“I think he’s a better horse now but we’ve got belief in him now and we went to the Champion Chase last year without that belief in him and his ability and how strong he stays. He’s learning how to compete at this level as well.”

On Hitman he added: “He’ll have big days yet, he’s only five and he’s getting better all of the time. 

“If he’d have jumped the second last properly he’d have probably been a lot closer and he’s followed the front end of the pace so I’m really thrilled with him – he’s got plenty to come. 

“Mentally he’s just getting better and I think Exeter was the first time he raced in front of a crowd. He should have won the Haldon Gold Cup probably - Eldorado Allen just stuck his head down – but he’s babyish and he’ll keep improving.

“I thought they both looked superb coming here and I actually thought Hitman would win, but he ran second and ran very well.

“If you saw the two horses every day you’d probably think Hitman was the better horse at home, but Greaneteen has got that ability now and when he relaxes and stays on strong he’s really good. 

“It suits him here, he travels well and jumps well and stays up the hill – we can do that accordingly at Cheltenham now and it’s just a case of having more belief in him. 

“I really do like Hitman too, I think he has a lot of ability. All of those good horses from five to six to seven improve and he will improve. 

“I feel a bit guilty because I said to Harry (Cobden) to stick with Hitman because he’ll have plenty of big days with him. Bryony obviously gets on with Greaneteen so we left it like that and we’re a team and Harry understood that. 

“He’ll have his days on that horse and he rides Clan for that partnership – so sometimes you just do the right thing for each horse.” 

All roads will now lead to the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase for Greaneteen, which Paddy Power trimmed him from 12-1 into 6-1 for, while William Hill went 5-1 for the same race.

He said: “The Champion Chase will be his target now. Both horses won’t clash now until the Champion Chase and they will go different routes. 

“Talking to Chris (Giles, owner of Greaneteen), we might go to Ascot (Clarence House), then the Champion Chase and Hitman could go to Kempton for the Desert Orchid then the Game Spirit at Newbury.”

As for Chacun Pour Soi his rider Patrick Mullins believes his jumping lacked its usual fluency.

Mullins said: “He felt like he might be feeling something but he didn’t fire today. He was perfectly sound when he pulled up. He didn’t jump like he can. 

“I was surprised he wasn’t attacking the fences and when I asked him he just didn’t do that. He never jumped like he can. It wasn’t to be today.”

Victory for Greaneteen was the highlight of an 1,169-1 Sandown Park treble for Nicholls, who was also on the mark with Highland Hunter (9-1) in the Betfair Exchange London National Handicap Chase and Samarrive (8-1) in the Listed Betfair Daily Rewards December Handicap Hurdle. 

The champion trainer added: “Going left handed for Samarrive last time at Cheltenham was the wrong way round and Lorcan (Williams) got off him and said that. We had half a suspicion that was the case as he hung a bit right at home. 

“We will go to Ascot just before Christmas with a 4lb penalty. I had in my mind this season to come here, Ascot, give him a break then come back here for the Imperial Cup. That might suit him well.

“We all get pleasant surprises, I didn’t think Highland Hunter would be ready to win today and we’d obviously been training him for the Welsh National.

“He had a wind op in the summer which I think has helped him enormously and when I ran him in the Midlands National it was a rush to get him there as he had to have three runs to qualify.”