WHEN we speak about the bravery of jump jockeys, we usually refer to sickening falls, broken bones and staggering feats of endurance.
And Bryony Frost, Britain’s most successful female National Hunt rider, is as physically courageous as any male colleague.
But by reporting the bullying and harassment she suffered at the hands of journeyman jockey Robbie Dunne,
Frost has gone beyond even the degrees of fearlessness we normally associate with her sport.
Frost, 26, has spoken about being outcast because she turned whistleblower.
She has told of being given the silent treatment in the weighing room.
And she told an independent disciplinary hearing that even a fellow female jockey had told her she was wrong to report Dunne’s behaviour.
But the independent panel’s verdict, that Dunne is guilty of four counts of bringing the sport into disrepute, is full vindication of her determination not to suffer in silence.
The panel’s chair, Brian Barker, commended Frost as ‘a truthful, careful and compelling witness’ and said she had broken the weighing-room ‘code’ by making a complaint, ‘knowing that isolation and rejection by some was inevitable’.
Not only is Frost an outstanding competitor – the first female jockey to win a Grade One race at the Cheltenham Festival and the first to triumph in the Boxing Day showpiece, the King George – but she is also an outstanding spokesperson.
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Frost is an engaging personality, with genuine star quality – she speaks with a love of racehorses and an infectious enthusiasm for racing, which has helped to extend her sport’s popularity beyond its usual boundaries.
She has continued to ride winners despite the stresses of her dispute with Dunne and last Saturday – days after being cross-examined at the disciplinary hearing – Frost piloted Greaneteen to glory in the grade-one Tingle Creek Chase.
Yesterday, just as Dunne’s guilty verdict was delivered, Frost rode Graystone to victory in the opener at Warwick.
Frost was struck by the warmth of the Sandown crowd’s reception after her triumph in last weekend’s big race.
But while she enjoys widespread public support for taking action, many inside the sport still regard Frost as the villain and Dunne as the victim.
It seems highly likely that an old lag like Dunne – a 42-year-old with few major victories but an apparently disproportionate sense of self-importance – began bullying and intimidating Frost out of professional jealousy.
A boys-will-be-boys culture pervades. Dare we suggest ‘Small Man Syndrome’ with many fellas intimidated by the presence of strong women.
The committee has heard evidence of a ‘rancid weighing-room culture’, dripping with misogyny.
Racing is a rare sport in which men and women compete against one another as equals – which ought to be a strong selling point.
Yet an old-school, outdated, boys-will-be-boys culture still pervades it.
Dare we suggest a touch of ‘Small Man Syndrome’ with too many of these little fellas intimidated by the presence of strong, successful women such as Frost?
Dunne has now been suspended for 18 months and shamed as a confirmed bully.
Even if some fellow jockeys continue to shun her, Frost’s courage in speaking out is likely to be a significant force for a long-term culture change.
For while Dunne represents racing’s past, Frost is her sport’s future.
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