On any other Saturday, Bryony Frost and Frodon’s big win at Wincanton would top the bill — but this was binge-watch racing. Over ten hours, ITV took us on a transatlantic 20-event journey from Dorset to the Grand National fences at Aintree, to the end of the turf season at Doncaster, to the Down Royal’s star turn in Ireland and then to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup.
Over there the world awaited local hero Flightline’s bid to confirm his status as the world’s best racehorse in the closing Breeders’ Cup Classic, but beforehand Britain fielded major chances in all four turf races starting with Highfield Princess’s tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Her 63-pound rise in the official ratings, culminating with grade one victories at Deauville, York and the Curragh, was ended when she got squeezed up early and could only battle to a close fourth to the locally trained grey mare Caravel, who was in control from the start.
British-trained Emaraaty Ana had a spin up the inside under Ryan Moore to challenge Caravel before being held off by a length while Naval Crown came from nearly last to run third. Hot favourite and dual previous winner Golden Pal blew the start and after moving up into contention at the turn, faded in the straight.
But if Highfield Princess could not make it, more ladies had already brought out the cheers on both sides of the Irish Sea. First Rachael Blackmore had driven Envoi Allen to outgun Kemboy and Gold Cup hope Galvin in the Ladbroke Champion Chase and then 20-year-old Saffie Osborne landed the biggest win of her sky-rocketing career when punching Metier home in Doncaster’s closing BetGoodwin November Handicap.
Envoi Allen’s win was a tribute to the skills of trainer Henry de Bromhead, who lost his 13-year-old son Jack in September, and at Aintree, Al Dancer’s defeat of Gesskille in the Grand Sefton was a fillip for his popular owner, Dai Walters, who is in intensive care after a helicopter crash on Tuesday. On a day when flat racing trumpeted the Breeders’ Cup as the “World Championships” these were reminders of what a hold Anglo-Irish jump racing can still have on the imagination.
Especially at Wincanton, where Frost showed all her skills to take front-running Frodon’s winning total to 19 races when she took the Badger Beer Chase for a third time. Frodon’s trainer Paul Nicholls landed the last four races, two of them ridden by Harry Cobden, whose 24th birthday had started with a nasty kicking when Enrillo capsized at the water jump.
No one has ever given ecstatic, from-the-saddle interviews like Frost and she was back to her best as she praised the horse who has given her King George and Cheltenham Glory. “I can’t wait for the local crowd to take the roof off here,” she said as she rode back on the horse on which she has become a legend. “Frodon is as he always is, season in, season out. You wrap yourself in his demeanour, he’s just so hungry to win.
“Our tactics were transparent and we were there to be shot at. It was greasy and it took all his intelligence to help me and that was probably one of his trickiest rounds. Paul said to me this morning to put them to the sword and he’s done just that.”
Lovely words but as Highfield Princess was to remind us, this particular day’s merry yarn was far from over.