With the new National Hunt racing season fast approaching, it’s a good time to take a look back at last term and remind ourselves of some of the biggest stories. Of course, it was a slightly strange time for racing, with the coronavirus pandemic having a major impact on the sport. Most racing venues were left without any spectator presence, and a sport that often relies on a buoyant atmosphere was left with the silence of empty racetracks.
Nonetheless, there were still some amazing moments over the course of last season in jump racing. Here, we’ve rounded up a few of them to look back on with fondness.
Success in the King George for Frost and Frodon
There are few more likeable jockeys on the circuit than Bryony Frost, and her partnership with the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon is one of the most famous in racing. At a price of 20/1ahead of the 2020 King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, there were plenty of horses better fancied than Frodon to scoop the first prize, but both horse and jockey put in an incredible performance to steal the show.
It was a hugely deserved win, and there are no racing fans who could begrudge Frost her moment of glory. Another win in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown capped off a good year for Frodon, although a fifth-place finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup means there is work to be done if the nine-year-old is to claim a win in Cheltenham’s showpiece in 2022.
Rachael Blackmore’s Cheltenham rollercoaster
Speaking of the Cheltenham Festival, we can’t look back on last season without remembering the Herculean efforts of Rachael Blackmore. The Irish jockey took the Festival by storm, landing six winners and etching her name into the history books as the first woman to win the Leading Jockey award at the Prestbury Park meeting.
The first win came in the feature race on day one, where the unbeaten Honeysuckle emerged triumphant in the Champion Hurdle. It was a stunning display by both horse and jockey, and that gave Blackmore plenty of confidence for the rest of the week. Further wins followed in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the Champion Bumper, the Ryanair Chase, the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and the JCB Triumph Hurdle in what were four days to remember for Blackmore.
The return of the Grand National
Having been postponed in 2020 for the first time since the Second World War, the Grand National returned to action in 2021 and provided plenty of drama. It is a sporting event like no other, bringing people together as they analyse the tips for horse racing and try to predict which horse will emerge triumphant.
Well, the 2021 winner wasn’t too hard to predict. Many had tipped Blackmore to continue her fine form, and she duly delivered the win with Minella Times, earning yet another special memory for the Blackmore family. Henry De Bromhead was the trainer, and he deserves special praise for the performances of his horses last season. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out for Blackmore and De Bromhead in the new campaign.