Horses and jockeys alike have used the Bet365 Scottish Cheltenham Trials as the springboard to stardom and a perfect example is the dream team of Bryony Frost and Frodon.
Sam Twiston-Davies was on board Frodon when the gelding stormed to a nine-length success in the 2017 Scottish Future Champions Novices’ Chase, but it was Bryony who did the steering for last year’s Ryanair Chase, when she made history by becoming the first woman to land a Grade One race over fences at the Cheltenham Festival.
It was at the 2015 Scottish Cheltenham Trials that Frost, the 24-year-old daughter of Grand National-winning jockey Jimmy Frost, properly arrived on the scene. Little did we know when she landed that year’s Scottish Foxhunter Chase, on impressive scorer Current Event, that she would be destined for much greater things.
Frost and Frodon have won six times together and in recognition of their exploits the opening event of the 2020 Scottish Cheltenham Trials next weekend at Musselburgh has been revamped as the Frodon Novices’ Chase. Head along to the Scottish Cheltenham trials at Musselburgh and buy your ticket in advance to save £5.
As far as the equine member of the duo is concerned, he holds entries at Cheltenham in both the Gold Cup and Ryanair Chase, with the latter once more his likely option, and his supporters can currently get odds of around 10-1 for a repeat victory.
Others to emerge from the East Lothian venue’s flagship jumps fixture are San Benedito, who carries the same colours as Frodon and is also trained by Paul Nicholls.
San Benedito scooped the 2017 Scottish Champion Chase before soaring to Grade One glory a few weeks later at Aintree’s Grand National festival.
We Have A Dream (2018 Scottish Triumph Hurdle) and Diego Du Charmil (2017 Scottish County Hurdle) also went on to grab Grade One’s at the home of the world’s greatest steeplechase the same year.
At £45,000, the Edinburgh National is the most valuable race up for grabs next weekend and – at four miles and one furlong – the longest staged at Musselburgh all season. It is also due to be screened live on ITV.
This year’s two-day extravaganza carries over £250,000 in prize money and a high-profile list is headed by Nicky Henderson, who has always been a great supporter of what Musselburgh has to offer.
Until eclipsed by Willie Mullins last year, Henderson was the most triumphant trainer at the Cheltenham Festival and his 64 winners include seven Champion Hurdles and two Gold Cups.
And, with four-time champion jockey Richard Johnson currently sidelined with a broken arm, Brian Hughes is now odds-on to become the first northern-based leading rider since Jonjo O’Neill exactly 40 years ago.
Irishman Hughes has ridden 83 Musselburgh winners, far more than any of his weighing-room colleagues – past or present – and will be trying to add to that tally next weekend.
There is one good bet for the event – the quality of the racing surface. Since the card on 17 January, several miles of plastic railing have been moved to ensure that the runners will encounter ground that hasn’t seen a hoofprint for many months.
Bill Farnsworth, general manager at Musselburgh, says: “Scottish Cheltenham Trials weekend is well established as a proving ground for trainers who have targeted the spring festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree and the quality is there for all to see.
“Every time we seem to produce horses who go on to perform well at those meetings and this year we have tweaked things so that most of the chases are on the Saturday with Sunday, focusing more on the quality hurdle races for novices.”
It’s fair to say that jumping at Musselburgh has come on leaps and bounds since the chasing and hurdling circuits opened back in January 1987.