When it comes to breeding a racehorse, just seeing him or her at the start ready to line up is a cause for celebration, at least according to Tim Frost’s father, Arthur.
So the mind boggles as to what Arthur would have made of his son’s Sam Brown winning a Grade 2 chase at Haydock and being prominent in the betting for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Owners will tell you that seeing your colours carried to victory in any race is a thrill, but when it’s a big race, and you’ve also bred the horse, that pride and joy escalates.
Tim Frost has been breeding horses for more than half a century and the buzz remains strong, thanks largely to novice chaser Sam Brown, winner of five of his six races.
Explaining his lifelong involvement with horses, he says: “In the 1940s my father Arthur moved the family to west Dorset and for as long as I can remember we’ve had horses at the farm. My first memory of racing was as a 14-year-old at the Cotley point-to-point outside Chard. My father had a horse called V-day running – she won the very first race at the course, ridden by my brother, Patrick.
“I returned from National Service in 1959 to start my farming life at our family home at Childhay Manor, in west Dorset, by setting up a pig unit alongside the family dairy herd.
“During the 1970s and 80s, my wife Monica and I built a successful creamery and ice cream business, which we sold in 1993. Since then, with my son Will, we have developed a goat unit which milks 2,500 goats a day; we’re the second largest producer of goat milk in the UK. We also share-farm an organic milking dairy herd of 380 cows. Will won Dairy Farmer of the Year in 2019.
“I first got involved in breeding horses in the late 1960s. The first mare I bred from was called Roxana and she had two foals, Lady Rock and Prince Rock. In over 55 years I would estimate that I’ve had 44 horses in training, either as point-to-pointers or under Rules, and of those I’ve bred 35 of them. My father’s advice to me when it came to breeding horses is that if you are stood in the paddock and the horse makes it down to the start for its first race, then you can throw your hat in the air!”
Frost continues: “Unbelievably, my first runner as an owner-breeder, Prince Rock, won at the Tiverton Staghounds point-to-point. That season we had some great days out with him as he won five ladies’ races, trained by Anthony Fortesque-Thomas and ridden by his wife, Gillian.
“After what turned out to be a stellar season, I sold Prince Rock to Michael Buckley, which was not a difficult decision as it helped me to complete the purchase of Childhay, of which I was a tenant at the time.
“Prince Rock was trained by Peter Bailey in the early to mid-70s and it was such a thrill to see him run in all the big staying handicap chases, including the Welsh National, in which he was second twice, the Irish National, where he finished second to Tied Cottage, and the Grand National, where he started favourite but unfortunately was interfered with three out by a loose horse and failed to complete.
“Over the next decade we had a modicum of success with our horses who were in training with the likes of Simon Christian, Robin Blakeney and, at an early stage in his career, Philip Hobbs. Lewesdon Prince provided us with a day in the sun when he came fourth in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.”
Frost, however, felt his breeding operation required a boost.
“I decided that I needed to improve the bloodline, so Anthony Fortesque-Thomas and I went to Doncaster sales to look at four mares that had caught our eye in the sales catalogue,” he says. “We opted to buy the mare Cream By Post, who was by Torus out of Lady Manta, whose line goes back to Arkle through Flying Cherry.
“She went into training with Richard Barber and won seven point to points from 11 races. We started to breed from her in 1996; she had four foals for us including Mister Wellard and Sam Brown’s dam, Cream Cracker.
“Mister Wellard was trained by Paul Nicholls and we believed we had an outstanding horse on our hands; like Sam Brown he won his first two bumper races. Tragically when upsides Our Vic on the final turn at Exeter, he broke his leg and was put down. I came very close to quitting the breeding game. When you live with the horses from foal to racehorse, I can honestly say that when you lose one it feels as close to losing a child as it comes.”
The comparable fortunes of Mister Wellard and Our Vic need no elaboration, and such incidents feed into why really appreciating the good times, and not taking them for granted, is so important.
“Cream Cracker was trained by the late Robert Alner,” says Frost. “She ran 36 times and was rarely out of the frame. Her only progeny to make it to the racecourse so far is Sam Brown, who is by Black Sam Bellamy. We have two full-sisters to Sam out of Cream Cracker, a four-year-old who is ready to go into training this autumn and an unbroken two-year-old who is still at home.
“Following the sad loss of Mister Wellard at Exeter, I waited 15 years to feel the thrill of having what I believed was a special horse again. Sam Brown won his bumpers at Wincanton and Newbury, claiming some notable scalps. After that summer, and prior to novice hurdling, there were a litany of setbacks and we wondered if we’d ever get him back again.
“After a break of 750 days he won by over 20 lengths at Lingfield in January – it was a magnificent feeling for me and the family. To win again in a similar vein at Haydock 11 days later was brilliant, however it has moved the pressure dial up a few notches as we look at higher goals in future.”
Whether those goals include this month’s RSA could hinge on the ground – Sam Brown likes cut – but whatever is decided will be the right decision for the eight-year-old, whose trainer Anthony Honeyball is enjoying the best season of his career.
“Anthony has trained my horses for the last eight years,” says Frost. “The first horse we sent to him, Taradrewe, won her very first race. Anthony was initially recommended to me by my close friend Richard Barber, who said at an early stage Anthony was doing a good job.
“Anyone who knew Richard would tell you that was a massive compliment. Anthony is supported by his wife Rachael, herself a top rider, and together they make a formidable team. In my time in business and with horses, I don’t believe I’ve met anyone who is as thorough or pays so much attention to detail.
“Testimony to this is his approach to the training and wellbeing of Sam Brown. When you visit his yard at Potwell Farm, it is immaculate, the horses look in great shape and his team are always welcoming – which includes my daughter Lucy, who is his secretary.”
It has been some journey from Roxana to Sam Brown’s juvenile sibling, but the best might yet be to come.
“Despite the fact that I recognise that patience is the key commodity for owning and breeding racehorses, as I move into my 82nd year it would be lovely to reach a new height with the latest batch of young horses, with the current focus on Sam Brown,” says Frost.
“I’m delighted that my son and daughter and our extended family share a passion for racing. I hope that in years to come the legacy of the bloodline I have created will continue to thrive.”