Dreams and nightmares at the Grand National

Torbay Weekly

Grand National weekend always throws up dreams that come true for some and are dashed for others.  For the Frost family, who have known what 'highs' the big race can bring, it turned into one they'll want to forget.

While the recent Irish dominance of National Hunt racing continued, and actually increased with Minella Times' historic victory, everything went wrong for South Devon's No.1 racing family.

Bryony Frost had a childhood dream, which began when she watched the film National Velvet for the first time, to be the first lady to win the Grand National.

Sadly, last Saturday her mount Yala Enki became intimidated by the Aintree fences.  After a promising start, the horse hit two of the imposing obstacles and his normally sound jumping gradually deteriorated until he unseated Bryony at the 20th fence.

There was no injury to Yala Enki, trained by Paul Nicholls in Somerset, but Bryony was trampled on and knocked unconscious.

She came around quite quickly, but was taken to hospital for tests and observation and was discharged later in the evening.  Under racing's concussion 'protocol' she will have to rest for several days.

Nicholls did give an encouraging update when he said he expected Bryony to be fit to ride her favourite horse, Frodon, in the season's big 'finale' at Sandown Park at the end of the month.

For parents Jimmy, who of course won the National in 1989, and Nikki, Saturday then got worse.

Having spent the aftermath of the race frantically trying to keep in contact with the medical authorities in Liverpool about their daughter, they tuned in to watch son Hadden compete in the USA, only to see him fall at the last fence when he was poised to win a major event in Maryland.

Fortunately, Hadden wasn't physically injured, but mentally bruised at this setback in his developing career across the 'Pond'.

If last week did nothing else, it underlined the great 'ups' and potentially terrible 'downs' of racing, as new Ashburton trainer Chris Honour was quick to highlight.

His horse Legend Of Zorro became the eighth winner of his debut season, in a handicap chase at Taunton on Thursday, but in the same race jockey Lorna Brooke fell and suffered what is reported to be a serious spinal injury.

Then at Aintree, Nicholls' stable jockeys Harry Cobden, falling in an earlier race, and Bryony also ended up in hospital.

Honour, a former jockey himself, said: "At least Harry and Bryony are OK, but Lorna's injury made our win feel almost like a hollow victory.

"We've had a brilliant first six months, with eight winners and quite a few places, and it's been absolutely amazing.

"But when things happen like they did last week, it puts everything into perspective.

"We go out there every day and put ourselves in that situation and, as Tony McCoy said, you never think for a moment that you're going to fall, and he did - hundreds of times.

"You can't afford to even start thinking like that.

"All our thoughts are with Lorna at the moment."