For the last month my son Dan and I have been left to my own devices in the house. My wife Nikki has been with my eldest son Hadden (jockey) in Spain, competing at the famous Sunshine Tour in Valencia. They took two of our main horses – Super Suzy and Alanta, plus Bryony’s (our daughter) new, young horse – King Kong. Both Nikki and Hadden said they loved it, although admitted sleeping in a horse lorry for a month is not something Nikki said she intends doing again for a very long time.
I haven’t needed to cook a meal since she left. The sympathy vote (man on own won’t survive) has meant that friends and neighbours have invited us to join them for dinner most days, and on the days that they haven’t, I have been sampling the menu at my local snooker club. I decided to take up snooker a few weeks ago when I read that doing things like puzzles and challenging the brain helps ward off dementia. The club is full of my old school friends. Last week they thoroughly enjoyed having a dig at my expense when I failed to put a bet on my own horse which Bryony rode and came in first at 24/1.
We are all preparing for the Cheltenham Festival in a few days’ time. Last year, Bryony made history by becoming the first woman to win a Grade One race at the event. The horse – Frodon, is trained by Paul Nicholls OBE where Bryony works early mornings, 7 days a week as a stable jockey.
As a father you never stop thinking of your children as kids. It seems like yesterday when Bryony at the age of 5 decided to throw herself off a horse after hearing me say that knowing how to fall is nearly as important as knowing how to ride. Even now at 24, coming on 25 and Ambassador for the Jockey Club, the family and I watch as our little girl is surrounded by fans ten-deep, as she tries to walk from the track to the changing rooms after a race.
Today is Nikki’s first day back in the UK. She’s tanned and still in Mediterranean mode looking to eat a healthy breakfast before getting back to reality and mucking out the stables in the rain. I give the healthy eating two days before she’s sourcing comfort food. Nikki and Hadden shared the drive to Spain using a recently purchased lorry which neither had experienced driving previously. On route they took the wrong turn and ended up in the Pyrenees Mountains, measuring the width of the roads ahead with a tape measure (purchased for that purpose) to make sure the lorry could actually fit on the narrow roads that wound precariously around the mountains. Nikki kept me updated. I hardly slept with worry. Hadden’s response to my concern was ‘’Hey Dad it’s okay, we’ve got a tape measure’’.
Back here in the UK it has been hard with all the flooding. The meadows where we train the horses look like rivers. Whilst it’s been debilitating for us, we cannot begin to appreciate what it feels like for all those people who have had to move out of homes elsewhere in the country because of the floods. My thoughts are with them. Bryony has a home in Somerset near Paul Nicholls’ stables. She says the fields around there are waterlogged and they too are struggling.
Whilst the hours are long for Bryony – she works every morning and races most days, competing in up to 600 races a year, her success has meant she gets invited to the odd nice event now and again. This week Paul Nicholls and Bryony attended a lunch in London. She sat with J P McManus and my old mate – Harry Rednapp. Evidently, he was reminiscing. My dad, Bryony’s grandfather, trained one of Harry’s horses many years ago. Harry is brilliant company. He has so many hilarious anecdotes and spins a great yarn. Love the guy and I am pleased he is doing so well.
The evening is drawing in and I’ve just finished helping our amazing team here rug the horses up. They have been an incredible support during this awful weather. Time for a cuppa.
The week ahead is busy but on Tuesday we haven’t far to travel. We are at Exeter on Tuesday, March 3rd when Bryony should be riding Triple Chief. We are also at Gorcombe the same day.
We would love to see you. Come up and say hello.
Until next week.
Don’t miss Jimmy Frost’s column – A Touch of Frost every Sunday in the Independent. Article available here each Tuesday following Sunday’s publication.