• Ryanair Chase winner Frodon and rider get huge reception
• Front-runner looked beaten before rallying to win after last
Bryony Frost became the first female jockey to win a Grade One chase at the Cheltenham Festival as Frodon made all the running under a perfectly judged ride in the Ryanair Chase here on Thursday.
Frost had partnered Frodon in all four of his previous starts this season, winning three and finishing second in the other, and soon had the seven-year-old at the front of the field, measuring his fences well and giving his rivals little chance to make ground.
The chasing pack started to close going to the second-last and Aso, one of the outsiders in the field, briefly headed Frodon jumping the last but Frost had kept something in reserve for the run up the hill and there was a huge roar from the stands as the 9-2 chance started to fight back. Frodon soon had the measure of Aso and Frost’s mount was one-and-a-quarter lengths in front at the line.
“He’s got his day, he’s Pegasus,” Frost told ITV Racing shortly after the passing the post. “He is the most incredible battler. He travels, he jumps, and that minute where he got overtaken, most horses would quit but he grabbed me by the hands and said “don’t you dare give up, don’t you dare not send me into the last, now come on, where are you?”.
“I’ve got lots of best friends, I’m really lucky, but what he’s doing for me and the dream that he’s just made come true for me, it’s incredible, this is his day, unbelievable. He just made the dream come true, it’s just incredible. He will deserve every single high five, pat and carrot.”
Forty minutes later Paisley Park, whose owner Andrew Gemmell has been blind since birth, was a hugely popular winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle as he held off the 33-1 outsider Sam Spinner with Faugheen, a former Champion Hurdle winner, back in third.
Gemmell, who backed his horse to win the race at 33-1 earlier in the season, developed a love for sport in general and racing above all from listening to radio commentaries as a child in the 1960s. After retiring from his job as a trade union official, he has owned a number of horses but Paisley Park, who is trained by Emma Lavelle, is the first with enough talent to run in Grade One races.
Paisley Park, named after the home of the late pop singer Prince, was sent off as the 11-8 favourite having started his season in handicap company before progressing to Graded events.
Aidan Coleman, his jockey, settled him in mid-division behind a solid pace and then crept closer to the lead on the run down the hill before taking it up on the run to the last. He crossed the line nearly three lengths clear of Sam Spinner with Faugheen a further four lengths adrift in third.
“I can’t believe it’s happened,” Gemmell said in the winner’s enclosure. “Let’s hope it’s the first of many.”