Robbie Dunne and Bryony Frost dispute leaves racing in ‘new territory’

Leaked report says Dunne has been charged after complaints of bullying and harassment

Robbie Dunne has been charged with “conduct prejudicial to the integrity or good reputation” of racing after allegations of bullying and harassment.  Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Robbie Dunne has been charged with “conduct prejudicial to the integrity or good reputation” of racing after allegations of bullying and harassment. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

The body that represents jockeys in Ireland has said racing as a whole is in “new territory” on the back of allegations of bullying and harassment by top English rider Bryony Frost which are being investigated by the British Horseracing Authority.

Details of that investigation emerged in a newspaper report on Sunday where it was revealed that jockey Robbie Dunne, originally from Co Kildare, has been charged by the BHA with “conduct prejudicial to the integrity or good reputation” of racing.

In September of last year, Frost, a pioneering figure along with Rachael Blackmore for women competing alongside men, complained to the BHA that Dunne had been bullying and harassing her. That prompted an investigation by British racing’s ruling body with a report close to being published.

A leaked report to the Sunday Times, however, revealed details of how the BHA concluded in April that Frost’s complaints met the evidential burden and that Dunne faces formal charges which will decide if he has breached the rules.

It outlined how after a series of incidents during races, Dunne told Frost he would “put you through a wing,” a reference to the plastic railing on an approach to a fence. The Irishman told investigators he was unhappy with Frost’s riding.

The BHA investigators also outline in the report how “there is a cultural issue in which threatening behaviour is condoned and not reported in the weighing room.”

After interviewing a number of other jockeys and valets it reported that the hostility between Frost and Dunne was regarded as not out of the ordinary.

There is a tradition of jockeys keeping disputes ‘in house’ and Dunne told investigators that Frost’s complaint was “not the done thing.” How the report was leaked has been heavily criticised by the Irish jockey’s legal team.

The secretary of the Irish Jockeys Association said on Sunday that it is unusual for officials to get involved in such disputes and added that the “concern is the male-female element to it.” He stressed that no such case has arisen in Ireland.

“We are into new territory in terms of officialdom becoming involved in the weigh-room and what happens internally between riders. That’s unusual,” said the IJA’s Andrew Coonan, a former amateur jockey and now solicitor.

“It’s not the first occasion we’ve seen a rider charged with bringing racing into disrepute in some respects under what we would regard as Rule 272 and its broader implications.

“But it is the first time we would have seen it in terms of what would be regarded as possibly harassment and threatening behaviour. We certainly haven’t seen it brought to that level.

“The concern is the male-female element to it. We have absolutely seen situations where a younger rider may feel aggrieved at how he’s being dealt with by an older rider and how he’s being spoken to by an older rider. They are issues that do arise and we try to deal with those.

“We haven’t had a situation here of a female rider making a complaint, not in the context of a male rider and a female rider. So it’s a new development. We’re into new territory. And it is one we will certainly be watching very closely to see how that unfolds,” he added.

Coonan also described as “very much heat of the moment” Frankie Dettori’s comments towards the top Irish apprentice Dylan Browne McMonagle after Saturday’s Long Distance Cup at Ascot on British Champions Day.

Dettori, who finished third on Stradivarius, labelled the 18-year-old jockey’s ride on Baron Samedi a “disgrace” after a couple of incidents through the race. Baron Samedi’s trainer Joseph O’Brien strongly defended his rider.

“I would regard that as very much heat of the moment. Anytime you’re beaten you will always look at what might have made a difference and Frankie was upset at it,” Coonan said.

“I looked at it and the kid rode, in my view, impeccably. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a cracking good rider and he could quite clearly see what was going to happen. Frankie was going to stick him back into a pocket and he wasn’t going to allow that to happen.

“The kid summed it up exactly afterwards - that’s race riding,” he added.

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