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Q&A: Alice Plunkett

The ITV presenter talks to Metro about trailblazer Bryony Frost, Tiger Roll and the Grand National

The Cheltenham Festival was special this year, wasn’t it?

It really was. The stories are always the things that pull me in, and this year captured the broader imagination. To see Bryony Frost on the front of newspapers was massive, and then there was the Andrew Gemmell story.

How important do you think Frost can be for the sport?

Up to now women have struggled to find a platform in jump racing. There’s been good women — I mean Gee Armytage rode two Cheltenham winners in the 90s. Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh have been very good. What is different now is that Bryony could very well be champion conditional jockey. She rides as good as anybody out there. The way she rode Frodon, it wouldn’t matter if she was male, female, Irish, English. She gave that horse a phenomenal ride.

Star turns: Frost and Frodon winning the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last month, while Richard Johnson (below) rides Grand National hope Rock The Kasbah PICTURES: GETTY/PA

Do you think racing leads the way in sport when it comes to gender equality?

It would be the only sport where men and women compete on equal terms. There’s no pay gap. Bryony gets paid the same for winning a race as Richard Johnson does. I’m not a bra burner, but I feel in racing we’ve had great opportunities as women.

You rode over the Grand National fences in the Foxhunters’ Chase in 1993 when you were just 19. How well do you remember it?

I remember it like it was yesterday. I’ll never forget it. I was very green in racing experience. I was struck by how big a drop there was on the landing side. It’s a much more horse-friendly track now but the size and dimensions of the fences still have that wow factor.

Does last year’s winner Tiger Roll deserve to be such a short- price National favourite?

No doubt. His performance at Cheltenham had some people thinking he should have run in the Gold Cup. He’s so talented, he has got a huge personality. He’s a pint-sized champion, a tiger with a lion’s heart.

How special an achievement will it be if he wins again?

It will be one of the great sporting feats. It’s like winning back-to-back Wimbledon titles, or back-to-back championships in football. We’ll be in Red Rum territory. The roof will blow off the place if he does it.

Any other horses in the race that take your fancy?

I’m very keen on Philip Hobbs’ Rock The Kasbah. Richard Johnson is one of sport’s great ambassadors, an extraordinary professional. I think he’s got a really lively chance and I’d love to see him win the race for the first time.

What is so unique about the Grand National?

It’s the nostalgia, we’ve all sat down with our families all our lives and watched the National. It’s a touchpoint in your life, that comfort. However you do your National, you’ve done it like that since you were a kid.

Does tomorrow’s large audience bring extra pressures to the ITV Racing team?

It’s huge for the channel. There’s a balance of serving your micro audience, the ones that are with you every week, and not patronising them, and then telling the stories to that wider audience.

ITV Racing will be on from 2pm-6.15pm tomorrow with the Randox Health Grand National at 5.15pm