Tumultuous week ends in glory for Bryony Frost

Bryony Frost ended the worst possible week in the best way imaginable when springing a surprise aboard Greaneteen in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase. 

The jockey was visibly relieved to be back in her "most blissful place" after giving emotional evidence at a hearing brought by the BHA against Robbie Dunne, who is accused of threatening and abusive behaviour against Frost. 

With that weight temporarily dropped from her shoulders, she entered the winner's enclosure grinning from ear to ear and threw both arms in the air as she was serenaded with three cheers by a sellout and supportive crowd. 

"It's huge to hear the support from everybody here. They appreciate me and it's the best life being able to ride horses as my job," said the jockey.

It is easy to see why when you are able to ride horses like Greaneteen. The seven-year-old was a relative outsider and faced a huge task taking on leading Champion Chase contenders Chacun Pour Soi and Nube Negra.

However, he cruised into contention under Frost and, after a massive jump at the last, powered five and a half lengths clear of his stablemate Hitman. In the end it was comfortable – unless you were the jockey sitting on top. 

"He jumped the last well, but it felt like a long way going up the hill," said Frost, still red in the face following a typically fast-and-furious race.

"We had a lovely start and I was able to settle him and move to the pace. The team knew he was 100 per cent and he just galloped for all he was worth."

Paul Nicholls certainly knew Greaneteen would be at his best. When asked for the secret to winning a record-extending 12th Tingle Creek, the trainer said it was really as simple as having good horses and thought-out plans.

Of course, there is a little bit more to it than that, but the Tingle Creek had been the aim for the winner since he claimed another notable scalp when beating Altior in the Celebration Chase at Sandown's season finale in April.

This represented a big step forward for the progressive chaser, who was fourth in the Haldon Gold Cup on his seasonal reappearance at Exeter, a performance that may explain why he was sent off at big odds of 12-1. 

"He had his first run at Exeter to take the freshness off him and he was never going to win that day carrying top weight. That was a prep run and his improvement since then has been tremendous. When he went by the winning post on the first circuit, I knew he was going to be right there at the finish as he dropped the bridle and was more relaxed," said Nicholls. 

"I thought the ground was going to be soft enough for Nube Negra and Chacun Pour Soi didn't have too many excuses in the Champion Chase. This is a young horse on a big upward curve and he won very impressively."

It was an impressive performance and a welcome one, too. It has been a challenging week for the yard with the ongoing BHA case involving Frost, and Nicholls said: "It's been difficult, but she handled it well. Nobody wants to be in that position, but to come back here and win a Grade 1 is just testament to Bryony and her professionalism. Full marks to her."

This week has not been without tribulations for Nicholls himself, having spent the last ten days in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19. The trainer said: "I've just been frustrated. Imagine me being stuck indoors for ten days?"

Nicholls said he now has faith in Greaneteen and so do the bookmakers, as he was cut to 6-1 (from 12-1) for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase in which he finished fourth last season behind Put The Kettle On. 

"He's definitely a Cheltenham horse," said Nicholls. "We had no belief in him last season and we thought Politologue was our number one. He was only beaten two lengths and we've now got belief in his staying ability."

Greaneteen finished behind Chacun Pour Soi in March, but the five-time Grade 1 winner failed to make an impression after blundering at the first of the railway fences and his bid for a first success on British soil continues.

"It felt like he might be feeling something," said jockey Patrick Mullins. "He didn't fire, but he pulled up perfectly sound so maybe I'm just imagining it. He didn't jump like he can and I was surprised he didn't attack his fences."