| Nikki’s News, Bryony, Cheltenham | 22.03.2019 |

As with all racing stories, time has gone by very quickly since the Cheltenham Festival. The merry-go-round, doesn’t stop and lots has happened since that memorable day! The press coverage was phenomenal, the support, accolades and attention were immense and to be honest a little embarrassing. Not because the praise wasn’t deserved, Bryony rode an amazing race, she was brave and gave Frodon every chance. On the biggest stage in our sport, our shop window and with massive expectation they delivered the goods!!! It seems to me the racing world has been crying out for a charismatic character and I don’t think they even knew the sport lacked someone who feels comfortable to express their feelings, who is willing to drop the usual phrases and instead use language that flows naturally and without embarrassment to share amazing achievements and feelings of pure delight. I think that others have taken note and the interviewees and interviewers seem to be willing to talk more freely and share their emotions; this can only be good for our sport. Up until now we were the only sport where it was rare to see raw emotion, of course, not all people are so demonstrative as Bryony and that’s okay but without knowing it or planning it she is sharing with the public and opening up our very insular world. To us involved it is everything, our whole world, to non-racing people it is people riding horses around and around in circles, jumping fences. But maybe when they listen to a jockey explaining a race or how brilliant and brave a horse has been, when they listen the story about the horse, when they meet the owners and trainers and listen to how much goes into getting a horse to that stage in his career, it may go some way to unravelling what must be a very confusing sport! I thought I might just talk about some of the back-ground life during the Festival. Having looked after 3 jockeys now before big race meetings, my priority is always to keep them calm, avoid any drama, keep the routine the same, feed them well, get everything organised without being too obvious I’m fussing! Don’t talk about the forthcoming meeting excessively. Avoid joining in conversations that are only for present and retired jockeys as I obviously know nothing about riding race horses!!! On the day, we get up and try and organise dogs, cats, house, Woody is better after his escapade and a lot safer now he has a tracker on him! This is a relief as it means whoever is looking after him can spy on him and even if he gets one of his forgetful moments, we can find him, wherever he ends up!!! Luckily, we have amazing staff and left in the usual flurry of Frost Lateness! Knowing that all would be well at home, the work list was done and in theory it all looked as if it should run smoothly? Hadden was flying over for Thursday, so I had found suitable clothes for him, this took considerable excavating from his massive pile of disorganised chaos that are his belongings stashed in one of the bedrooms!!! As per usual with Hadden, his visit was going to be a whirl wind of driving up and down the country trying to do all he wanted, this included climbing, celebrating a birthday, seeing Percy, his dog, going to Cheltenham to cheer B on and see some of his USA timber racing connections and, very importantly, ride in a team chase! It was lovely for him and I felt so happy for him. When he went to the weighing room to wish B ‘Good Luck’ and so many of the jockeys gave him a tremendous welcome, I think he was a little taken aback, he doesn’t seem to realise he is actually quite nice, and although he considers himself very insignificant they genuinely were happy to see him again!!! The journey up was easy, and we arrived in good time, there was a feeling of deja vu as we were parked in almost the same space as Pacha’s year. None of us dared to talk about this… much too romantic a notion? Jim went to meet up with B to walk the course, it seems to me this is a good time, if she is lucky, she can walk it without interruptions from press and well-wishers, time to gather her thoughts. She runs through the race and visualizes. She seems to cope with the attention with immense patience and fortitude most of the time, but this race has been so hyped up, the expectation and hope she feels for Frodon, his owners, her boss and his team and of course herself must weigh heavy on her. But this is part of wanting to compete at the top level and this is what makes some able to cope with the pressure and some not. As I sat in the car, people watching, I felt surprisingly calm. The stage was set, Frodon had got to the day, healthy, happy and trained to the second. The jockey had got to the day and was fit, ready to do what she does best. She had finished all her pre-arranged interviews and had disappeared into the inner sanctum of the weighing room. Where I can only imagine there is a feeling of comradeship, these people are in a very select group. We mere mortals may feel we know a jockey, but unless you are one, or have been one, you can only imagine how they work? There is always an air of expectation, some walk around with a pure look of concentration as they prepare to go out. Some are still light hearted and joking but you can see underneath the banter is a steely determination and hunger to achieve and succeed. Having sat in the car for a while waiting for Hadden, to arrive. I had watched several cars de-camp and the occupants put on coats and hats and hurry off toward the entrance, I could almost see the aura of excitement and expectation surrounding them. The tension was building for me and so I turned my attention to a very civilised pic-nick taking place behind my car, with a group of French people, they know how to do it! I then look up to the big screen, “Oh, there’s B!”, she is doing an interview, I can’t hear what she is saying, but I just sit there and say a little pray to which ever God, can help her, let her ride well, let there be no mistakes, help her succeed in her quest. Hadden and his friends arrive, so to practical things, quickly find suitable clothes from the boot. The French breakfast club beside him didn’t seem un-duly worried about a man stripping down to boxers beside them whilst they sipped their champagne! And so we were all suited, booted and ready to go in. I normally, prefer to wonder around anonymously. I like watching people rushing around, excited that the little ticket they are grasping is going to be a lucky one. I like to watch the elegant ladies strolling around glad that they settled on the warmer coat. And the younger girls who concentrated on whether the skirt was short enough and the heels high enough without contemplating walking on a slope all day! The dapper, shiny suited, young men gathered in groups for lager and guffawing! And then of course, the seasoned National Hunt, race goer, tweedled with his slightly be-draggled trilby, that has seen many rainy, mid-season days. He walks around with an of acceptance that he has to share his beloved Festival with all these non-racing types!!! As the race gets closer, I have my routine, so I stick to this. I set off to stand in the same place that superstitiously has previously brought luck! I have no idea why I am so superstitious, I know my actions have no power over the result of the impending race. But I am not willing to test out this logical theory today! I watch her ride out of the paddock, she is all smiles and, in my mind, wish her luck. It isn’t just for the race, but all that she has ever dreamed of and worked for, to be considered a good jockey. Capable of riding in these races. I stand in my special place, almost in a bubble, time passes me. I can hear the commentary and as usual, have to pop my head out to watch the field go by, then duck back to my place again. As they swing the home bend, they are still there pitching, a huge wave of pride and hope sweeps over me… “come on B, come on”. She has ridden a brilliant race, they have been brave and now they need to dig deep and be resilient. The race has been a very tactical one, it was the obvious game plan to challenge Frodon, up front. But you don’t challenge these two in a war of attrition, I only know him from what B has told me, but I know her, and she will not give up. “Go on B, this is your time… don’t let this go!” Going to the last and I move up to the paddock, standing there looking up at the big screen, willing them on. The crescendo is immense, vibrating around Cheltenham, it is palpable as they cross the line and the explosion of emotion, sound and happiness. I couldn’t believe the feeling of joy; the reaction was over powering. It seemed the whole of Cheltenham had been hoping this would happen? The crowd’s reaction as she rode back up into the paddock was astonishing, I don’t think I have ever seen such an outpouring of delight and emotion, it was incredible. I stood there amongst people pushing to get closer so that they could see and make sure their words could be heard as they shouted their congratulations. I was supremely proud and just amazed. She, after all had just done her job! Granted, they had both done it brilliantly, and there was no question, they had both been seen at the top of their game. On the biggest stage of all, on the most important day in their careers so far, they had competed against the best jockeys, horses and history and they had succeeded. Some wonderful pics of the day: