National Hunt jockey Robbie Dunne did harass, bully and threaten the country’s most successful female rider, Bryony Dunne, a British Horse Racing Authority disciplinary panel has concluded.
Dunne, 36, has been found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the reputation of horse racing in his treatment of Frost, 26, which could result in a fine of up to £15,000 and a ban up to three years.
He was accused of abusing his rival allegedly calling her a ‘whore’, ‘slut’ and ‘c***’ at various races last year and threatening to ’put her through a wing [fence]’ at Southwell.
The ruling, following a week-long hearing, will shake National Hunt racing to its core since the case has shone a spotlight on incidents of misogyny and bullying, which went unchallenged by fellow jockeys, staff and stewards.
In a sport that prides itself on offering an even playing field for men and women to compete against each other, Frost’s testimony has raised difficult questions about weighing room culture.
A QC-led three-person independent panel was told that Dunne was a self-appointed enforcer of 1950s traditions among jockeys, who police each other’s behaviour in a dangerous sport.
Reporting the first part of their judgement, the panel chairman, Brian Barker QC, said: ‘Our conclusion, is a course of deliberate conduct over a significant period of time has been revealed.
‘This progressed from distasteful targeting through deliberate harassment and on and off the course and onwards to occasional cases of dangerous bullying.’
Robbie Dunne (L) was accused of verbally abusing and threatening Bryony Frost (R)
As well as threatening to put Frost ‘through a wing’, Dunne was also accused of threaten to cut up the female jockey on the course, something referred to as ‘murdering’ in jump racing.
Mr Barker added: ‘We find the words used on September 3 [at Southwell] were a promise to cause real harm were over and above the usual ‘jockeymantra’ of ‘murdering’. ‘
Jockeys lined up to dispute Frost’s account of what was said when and cast doubt on her claims of bullying, but the panel has believed the evidence of the female rider.
The case against Dunne concerned three races last year – Uttoxeter, Stratford and Southwell – when he was accused of abusing Frost and threatening to hurt her.
However, Frost claimed these incidents were in fact a culmination of years of mocking and bullying because she had the temerity to stand up to his Dunne’s alleged lewd behaviour.
In announcing the decision today, Mr Barker added: ‘On the examination of Miss Frost’s evidence and demeanour we find her to be truthful careful and compelling and in taking her complaint to the authority she has broken the code knowing that isolation and rejection by some was inevitable.’
Dunne, racing at Newbury in January, faced six charges under two BHA rules during a hearing
Dunne faced six charges under British Horse Racing Authority regulations.
He was accused of breaching two rules in relation to each event at Uttoxeter, Stratford and Southwell.
Under rule J19, it is alleged he displayed ‘conduct prejudicial to’ the sport by ‘bullying and harassing’ a fellow jockey. He denied all of these charges.
However, the panel concluded he had breached rule J19 on all counts.
Dunne was also charged under rule J20, it is claimed he was ‘acting in a violent or improper manner’ by abusing another rider. The panel is yet to rule on the outcome in relation to these charges.
The male jockey had accepted the charge at Southwell. Dunne admitted he said to Frost at Southwell, ‘I’ll put you through a wing’, but argued it was a commonly used phrase in racing and intended as a rebuke, not a threat of actual harm.
Frost, pictured racing at Hereford earlier this month, was reduced to tears during the hearing
The panel will also have to consider the punishment they will hand to Dunne.
The range of punishment for breaking Rule 19, acting in a way that is prejudicial to horse racing, is a fine of between £1,000 and £15,000 and a ban from one month to three years.
For breaching Rule 20, if that is proven, by acting in a violent of improper manner, the punishment is a ban up to 21 days and a fine of between £100 and £5,000.
How the saga has unfolded
September 2020: Bryony Frost complains to the BHA about her alleged treatment by Robbie Dunne.
December 26: Frost talks about negativity in the weighing room after her King George VI Chase win on Frodon.
January 12, 2021: Details emerge of an angry exchange involving Frost and Dunne after his mount Cillian’s Well fell fatally at Southwell on September 3.
January 24: Racemail reveals Frost’s concern about her treatment goes back to June 2019, when she was involved in a verbal incident with trainer Johnny Farrelly at Uttoxeter.
April: BHA head of integrity Chris Watts completes his 120-page report into Frost’s allegations, with Dunne told he will be charged.
October 17: Watts’ leaked report appears in a Sunday newspaper. It details Frost’s statement with allegations of problems with Dunne back to 2017 and threats he had allegedly made against her. Dunne’s legal team accuse the BHA of losing control of the investigation.
November 24: Dunne is charged with bullying and harassing a fellow jockey on three race days in 2020.