Bryony Frost to reunite with Frodon for Ladbrokes Champion Chase

Jockey is in dispute over her allegations of bullying and harassment against Dunne

  Bryony Frost enjoyed a victory with Frodon in  the Ryanair Chase race   at Cheltenham  in March  2019. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Bryony Frost enjoyed a victory with Frodon in the Ryanair Chase race at Cheltenham in March 2019. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

 

Bryony Frost could be the centre of attention for all the right reasons at Ireland’s first Grade One prize of the National Hunt season in Down Royal on Saturday.

Currently embroiled in controversy over her allegations of bullying and harassment which has dominated headlines in cross-channel racing, the English jockey has the happier prospect to look forward to of teaming up with her old ally Frodon in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has been aiming Frodon at the €125,000 centre-piece of the Down Royal festival of racing, which starts on Friday, as he pursues a record fifth victory in the race. Nicholls’s record includes two wins for the legendary Kauto Star in 2008 and 2010.

Frost and Frodon have become one of jump racing’s biggest stories in recent years.

The 26-year-old jockey became the first woman to ride a King George VI Chase winner when Frodon emerged on top at Kempton last Christmas. A year before, she was the first woman to ride a Grade One winner over fences at the Cheltenham festival after the horse’s success in the Ryanair Chase.

Investigation

However, the former champion conditional rider has recently found herself in the midst of an increasingly bitter dispute over her allegations of bullying and harassment against Irish jockey Robbie Dunne made more than a year ago.

Details of a subsequent British Horseracing Authority (BHA) investigation were leaked last week and included criticism of a weighing room culture in Britain that discourages riders from reporting concerns about bullying.

The BHA has still not released its report which will see the ruling body charge Dunne with “conduct prejudicial to the integrity or good reputation” of racing.

That delay in publishing the report has been heavily criticised, and on Monday led the Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA) to take the step of calling for the BHA to end its investigation because it believes it is impossible for Co Kildare-born Dunne to get a fair hearing.

“The length of time taken in bringing this case to a conclusion is unacceptable. Now that the material has been leaked to the media, and the information leaked is the charge letter and accompanying documentation that should only have been available to the BHA, Robbie Dunne and his legal advisers, a fair hearing is impossible,” the PJA said in a statement.

“The matter cannot now be permitted to proceed – and we call upon the BHA to bring this matter to an end, however unsatisfactory that is.

“The PJA is aware that its membership is upset by the negative headlines about the culture in the weighing-room that have been circulating this past week.

‘Frustration’

“The PJA understands and sympathises with their frustration, particularly from those female jockeys who have contacted us. We are grateful to them for respecting the process that must be allowed to conclude.”

Frost is in action at Bangor on Tuesday when she teams up with Little Light in a handicap chase.

The shape of Saturday’s big race will become clearer after Tuesday’s acceptance stage, although the Gold Cup hero Minella Indo, who had Frodon behind him in fifth at Cheltenham in March, could make his first appearance of the season.

Like Nicholls, Gordon Elliott has won the Champion Chase four times including last year with The Storyteller. He has half of the 10 entries ahead of Tuesday’s forfeit, including the Gigginstown stars, Samcro and Delta Work.

Minella Indo’s stable companion Quilixios, winner of the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, is the star name left among eight entries for Friday’s Grade Two WKD Hurdle at Down Royal.

Friday’s card could also see the first start over fences of last season’s Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier in a Beginners Chase.

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