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Ruby Walsh: The weighing room has "stopped working”

Fri 10 Dec 2021

Ruby Walsh believes the weighing room has “stopped working” following the British Horseracing Authority disciplinary panel hearing which found Robbie Dunne had bullied and harassed Bryony Frost.

Dunne was handed an 18-month ban on Thursday, three of which are suspended, having been found in breach on four charges of conduct prejudicial to racing.

Frost was back in action at Doncaster on Friday, where she was winless from three rides. She did not want to add to her statement, released 24 hours earlier, when approached for comment, but was happy to sign autographs and pose for photos with racegoers.

Frost, who said she has been left isolated by the weighing room since the allegations were made, was at least made to feel welcome by racegoers on Town Moor as she made her way to the paddock for her first mount, Amenon, who finished second for champion trainer Paul Nicholls. She went on to finish third on Flic Ou Voyou and unplaced on Neil King’s Perfect Myth.

 Bryony Frost and Robbie Dunne - (Pic: PA)
Bryony Frost and Robbie Dunne - (Pic: PA)

Former champion jockey Walsh, who is now a leading presenter at Racing TV, was at Cheltenham, working for ITV Racing. He told viewers: “Based on the evidence surrounding this case, to say that the culture is rancid is an easy accusation to make. Do I believe that’s the culture of the entire weighing room? Most certainly not.

“That said, you have a room full of competitors and rivals. They’re not all friends, they never will be nor should they be, they are all competitors, but they represent the image of the sport and they have to uphold that. There will be rows but at times that means somebody has to tell somebody else to sit down and shut up. That doesn’t appear to have happened here and that’s what went wrong.

“‘I’m sorry’, that’s part of any altercation and in sport they will always happen but you have to go back and apologise. They’re simple words and also somebody then has to reassure the person who was heckled not to worry about it. That’s how the weighing room worked, that is how it should work but it stopped working, and that is the problem.”

Along with Nicholls and King, trainer Lucy Wadham forms part of the triumvirate who are Frost’s biggest supporters and she was present on Town Moor.

“I’ve probably said all I want to say on the matter, but I think she’s handled herself brilliantly through all this,” said Wadham. “She’ll be glad it’s all over and I just hope the other jockeys can bring themselves to speak to her again now.”

Neil King was at Cheltenham and he told Sky Sports Racing: “All credit to her with the success she’s been having on the racecourse, it’s probably one of her best seasons so far with the big-race winners she’s been riding as well.

“There’s enough pressure and tension that comes with riding big racehorses, as well as everything that’s going on in the background behind her, you can only take your hat off to her with the success she’s continued with.

“It was tough at the time of the problems going on and hearing it first hand from Bryony what was happening, you just felt powerless that nothing was being done about it. I, for one, think it’s a great shame. This should have been sorted out a long time ago – for Bryony’s sake and for Robbie’s sake. Nobody’s a winner out of it at the end of the day.

“I will be critical of the BHA and the PJA. It’s all very well the PJA coming out now and criticising, but isn’t that what they are there for? Bryony is a member as well as Robbie Dunne, why were they not there to help and stop it from getting to this stage?

“Full marks to Bryony, all the way through it she has carried herself well and her riding on the track is proof of the pudding. She’s had some very hard times and one has to feel for her that she’s going to have some more hard times within the weighing room for being honest and standing up for herself.”

 Dunne will not be able to return until 2023 (Focusonracing)
Dunne will not be able to return until 2023 (Focusonracing)

Venetia Williams, also at Cheltenham where she saddled a winner, has been a big supporter of Dunne in the past.

“It is what it is and we’ve all got to look and learn and move on,” she said. “It’s obviously a sad period of time for everybody involved. I don’t want to be saying what’s right and wrong, it is what it is.”

On whether she’d contacted Dunne since the result, she added: “I’ve sent him a message, but I haven’t spoken to him since.”

Trainer Lucinda Russell, partner of Peter Scudamore whose son, Tom, appeared as a witness for Dunne, said: “I think racing is a fantastic sport and everyone is very supportive of each other.

“As a woman in racing I’ve never heard any bias, bullying or people being rude about me. I think it is a very inclusive sport. I’m sorry things have happened, but I’ve certainly never seen anything.

“I suppose being up north we don’t really see her (Frost) very much. She’s a very good jockey. I think the jockeys are a very close-knit team. We’re talking about a sport here.”

Peter Scudamore added: “It’s very sad. Nobody comes out with any credit from this.”

Jockey Charlie Deutsch spoke out on how hurt the weighing room is after the BHA counsel Louis Weston described the culture in there as “rancid”.

Deutsch told ITV Racing: “The BHA comments – there’s not one person in the weighing room that is rancid and there’s not a rancid atmosphere. There’s a lot of intelligent, kind, caring people in there and it’s affected them hugely.

“I think it’s important to let people know everyone is an individual character and they’ve tarnished everyone with the same brush. There was no need for it and it’s upset a lot of the jockeys.”

Jon Holmes, of the PJA, was at Cheltenham also and said: “I understand how it’s been portrayed in the media and so on, and I understand the reasons behind that. Of course I do, I’d be stupid if I didn’t.

“What I can tell you is that in the main these are professional, hard-working, decent people and there is obviously, in this case, there may be isolated incidents. I’m not going to go into that because there may be an appeal going, and we also have to look forward to where we’re going to.

“I accept that she felt bullied, absolutely, and as I say, this is subject to appeal, so I can’t go into the case, but of course I accept it. She’s one of our members, we offered help in the first place to her, through Dale (Gibson) and through Paul (Struthers).“

Read more on the Frost-Dunne case:

Robbie Dunne banned 18 months for harassing and bullying Bryony Frost

Gay Kelleway welcomes verdict but Alain Cawley says his colleague has been "hard done by"

Robbie Dunne hearing: Closing arguments made

Robbie Dunne denies Bryony Frost’s bullying claims

Fence attendant: Dunne was “very aggressive” towards Frost

Bryony Frost: Robbie Dunne “opened his towel and shook himself”

Robbie Dunne bullied and threatened Bryony Frost, BHA panel told

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