ANOTHER week — and, to quote the late, great Oliver Hardy, that’s another nice mess in the racing world.
Not that any of this is a laughing matter, even if it does seem as if Laurel and Hardy are running the BHA these days.
Like most of you, I’ve been fascinated and appalled in equal measure by the details of the alleged bullying scandal involving Bryony Frost and Robbie Dunne.
The Sunday Times recently published some of the contents of a 120-page dossier into the behaviour of Dunne towards Frost and other female jockeys.
It’s difficult knowing where to start. Perhaps Dunne’s threats to put Frost through a rail?
Or maybe the time he strutted around stark-bollock naked in front of her?
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And let’s not gloss over the fact the BHA, which apparently is leakier than a second-hand sieve, is in the kind of disarray Stan Laurel would be proud of.
But one of the most disturbing aspects of the whole saga is the neanderthal mentality of many of those occupying the weighing room.
Before I get into that, let’s get one thing straight — I have total respect for jockeys.
Whether they ride on the Flat or over jumps, they put themselves in harm’s way every single day.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, you have to be as brave as a lion to ride unpredictable, half-ton animals at 40mph.
However, this ‘code’ among jockeys where any problems must be handled within the four walls of the apparently sacred weighing room is so unbelievably dated.
In no other walk of life would Dunne’s alleged conduct be brushed off as ‘bickering’ or an ‘exchange of words’.
In fact, the exact words used by Dunne are shocking.
He threatened Frost at Southwell last year after blaming her for the fatal fall of his horse — something she denies and the on-course stewards’ held the same view.
After months of abuse, she asked: “Robbie, what’s your problem?” To which he replied: “My problem is you murder (cut across) f***ing everyone and I promise you the next time we ride against each other I am going to hurt you.”
When other female jocks were interviewed about their interactions with Dunne, all described him as being rude to them at some point, but they would not go any further, not wishing to rock the boat.
Those quizzed by the BHA remain active in the saddle — but Frost’s rides have dried up. Last October she had 52 rides, this year she’s had 13.
There is little doubt she was on the receiving end of aggressive bullying, but somehow it’s HER reputation that has been damaged within the industry purely because she dared take her concerns outside.
She has been treated like a pariah by her colleagues and her her only ‘crime’ is having the bravery to stand up to a bully and refusing to accept attempts to brush things under the carpet.
Worse still, nobody in the weighing room has had the balls to come out in her defence.
While being interviewed by BHA investigators, Dunne said the reaction had been ‘not good’ towards Frost because speaking out was ‘not the done thing’.
Now just because they ride horses jockeys are not exempt from the same moral standards that the rest of us in the population abide by — if you are being bullied in a workplace you have every right to report it.
Having a dangerous job is not an excuse for misogyny, sexism, bullying or making threats of violence.
I was particularly taken aback by the reaction of senior jockeys like Tom Scudamore and Nico De Boinville.
Scudamore dismissed Dunne’s aggressive behaviour as an everyday occurrence, while De Boinville said he would ‘like to have thought he would have intervened had he felt it had gone too far’.
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It’s also deeply concerning Lorcan Murtagh, an up-and-coming young jockey, was terrified to speak to investigators.
He was a key witness to a heated exchange between Frost and Dunne at Stratford, but when questioned he pleaded the fifth and he said he could not remember the incident.
The next day, he begged the BHA’s Chris Watts not to tell anyone what he’d told him, with Watts replying in amazement: “You haven’t told me anything.”
The weighing room quite clearly has a deep-rooted, macho, mob-like mentality.
Granted, if you were to ‘squeal’ on the mafia you’ll soon find yourself sleeping with the fishes.
But if you are seen to ‘grass’ on another jockey, you’ll be cast out and your professional life made a misery.
The BHA have concluded the culture of the weighing room “condones threatening behaviour and frowns upon the reporting of it”.
In a 21st century world, that isn’t acceptable.
This has been deeply damaging to the image of the sport and — whether they like Frost or not — it’s hugely depressing nobody in the sport has come out in defence of the person.
Reform isn’t something that will come easily, but our riders must accept change is needed.
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