A mid-race incident leading to angry words between jockeys is believed to be at the heart of an investigation by racing’s ruling body referred to by Bryony Frost on Monday.
The King George-winning jockey spoke in Saturday’s Guardian about “ongoing things that need to be sorted out” and the difficulties they were causing her, and was quoted in the Racing Post as saying the matter is in the hands of the British Horseracing Authority.
That has led to talk of an investigation into bullying but Frost does not appear to have used that word and specific details are hard to establish, the BHA is sticking to its long-established practice of refusing to confirm or deny whether it is pursuing a particular case. Frost spent Monday riding in races at Doncaster and declined to elaborate on her previous comments.
But the Guardian has learned of evidence being gathered in relation to an incident some months ago, involving Frost and another rider in a post-race weighing-room confrontation. Friction between the pair arose from a race in which a horse fell, leading to accusations it had been the result of interference.
Statements have since been taken by BHA investigators from others who were on the site that day. That came as a surprise to another jump jockey, who said such clashes did not usually end up as disciplinary matters.
“You see words between people but that happens from incidents in races every now and again,” said the rider, who did not wish to be named. “It’s not a common thing but it’ll happen every two to three weeks, somebody’s not happy about somebody’s riding and they’ll come back in and say it.”
Frost’s concern evidently does not stop with a single incident but she has been careful not to point a finger at any individual. In the days after her well-publicised Boxing Day victory on Frodon, she spoke of difficulties “from within the sport” and said: “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
In Saturday’s Guardian, she told Donald McRae: “There are ongoing things that need to be sorted out and there is protection that needs to be given to others. So at the moment I can’t go too much into it. But it’s something I’m going to be trying extremely hard to make better and move forward in a positive way. But at the minute my hands are tied as to how much I can go into such things.”
Asked if the atmosphere in the weighing room among her fellow jockeys is difficult, Frost replied: “Yes. I struggle and I’ve got to make sure I don’t say anything too much. Sorry. I’m a bit stuck with this one.”
When the Racing Post asked her on Friday about the concerns she had alluded to at Christmas, Frost replied: “At the minute, it’s really hard for me to talk about. I’m not allowed to say much because it’s in the hands of the BHA. They have taken control of it and for the moment I can’t say any more. In time I will talk about it because it concerns something that must be improved for our younger generation.”
A BHA spokesman responded to queries with its stock phrase for such occasions: “The BHA does not comment on ongoing investigations or speculation concerning potential investigations.”
Frost’s natural ebullience has made her popular in the media and it would be no surprise if that provoked some jealousy or resentment among other riders who may imagine they deserve better opportunities. But jump jockeys have long insisted on the essentially supportive nature of the weighing room and Sam Twiston-Davies did so again on Monday, adding he had seen no evidence of bullying there.
“When you’re injured, it’s a place you look forward to getting back into and the camaraderie is great,” he said. “It’s a place, I can honestly say, it nearly makes me laugh every single day.
“Personally, I think the weighing room is a safe place, it’s a place I very much enjoy going. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had cross words with people and people have had cross words with me but there’s obviously respect between everyone.
“Tom Scudamore would be a close personal friend of mine. At Market Rasen last week we got a little bit tight, me and him, we exchanged words across the weighing room, quite strong words, and then the next day we’re back best friends, we’re laughing and joking together again. That’s always going to happen, not every day but there’s always going to be incidents in a competitive situation where adrenaline is high. There’s gonna be arguments.
“It’s such a tight-knit fraternity. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see eye to eye with who’s sat next to you, that same person may well be driving you to hospital that same day.
“Page Fuller the other day got a bad fall at Plumpton and fortunately she was OK in the end. But there were lads trying to work out who was going back to Lambourn, make sure she got back OK, who was going to drive her car back … It’s amazing how quickly everyone in that tight little circle has come together to work out how her problems are going to be solved.”