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'For how many more weeks might we be drip-fed material calculated to shock?'

Bryony Frost: her complaint was made over a year ago yet we don't have a hearing date
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The Front Runner is Chris Cook's morning email exclusively for Members' Club Ultimate subscribers, available here as a free sample.

In Monday's email Chris reflects on the ongoing case involving Bryony Frost and Robbie Dunne – and subscribers can get more great insight, tips and racing chat from Chris every Monday to Friday.

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We've now had consecutive weekends when horseracing has been front-page material for The Sunday Times. When did that last happen? This might be the first time.

Unfortunately, the news has not been good. "Misogyny and bullying scandal rocks horse racing," blared the page-one headline a week ago, above a story that shed new light on the complaints made by Bryony Frost about Robbie Dunne. Yesterday's edition took up the tale again with news of a "fresh complaint" related to the case, in a story that began on the cover of the sports section.

It was clear from the first story that the paper's David Walsh had an exciting source who had delivered access to documents which journalists hardly ever see. That truth was reinforced by Sunday's story, based on witness statements from a dozen jockeys and three valets.

The motivation of Walsh's source can only be guessed at, but a consequence of their actions is that the reputations of both the sport and the BHA have taken a pummelling. Was that the intended effect?

The first story was published on the day after Champions Day, one of the marquee days for the sport in Britain and the most expensive in terms of prize-money. When executives and officials must have been hoping for coverage that would reflect the best of racing, they picked up The Sunday Times and got a punch in the face.

Now we learn that some of the leaked evidence was held back for a week, so that a left hook could follow the initial right upper-cut. Is the source enjoying the spectacle of this one-sided battle? And what more blows are yet to be delivered?

Ay, there's the rub for workers at 75 High Holborn, the BHA's headquarters. Do they know how much more paperwork the source has in relation to this case, and how damaging it could be if laid before the public?

Could it be that the source has access to similar documents relating to other disciplinary cases, completed or pending? For how many more weeks might we be drip-fed material calculated to shock? Racing's insiders will approach next Sunday's papers with trepidation.


Key stories


The Front Runner has, on balance, decided against raking over the substance of this week's disclosed material; by God's good grace, we should get to a hearing some day soon at which all the relevant evidence can be considered. It became clear last week that the leak may pose some kind of threat to the progress of the Frost-Dunne case. Dunne's lawyers complained bitterly about what they saw as the prosecution's case being put on public display, along with very limited detail as to what might be said in defence.

"Trial by media is always unfair and a fair trial before a panel after trial by media is impossible," they said in a statement. Apparently, they intend to argue that the case has been so prejudiced that the final hearing of the evidence should not take place.

Perhaps you don't fancy their chances of making this stick. We're not dealing, after all, with a jury trial. Those who make up BHA disciplinary panels are qualified and capable people, picked for the task, who can approach a case with an open mind and not be swayed by anything they have previously read; so the BHA is expected to argue, at any rate.

But some BHA panel members are lay-people, chosen for their familiarity with the sport rather than their familiarity with legal principles. Sustained media exposure ahead of a hearing surely raises a risk of a panel chairman deciding that a case has been fatally compromised.

It is a risk the BHA could do without, bearing in mind its unhappy experiences just five years ago when two disciplinary cases had to be reheard because of procedural failings. Frost would presumably be horrified by any suggestion the case might be kyboshed, as would anyone who believes her grievances must be aired and acted upon.

More than ever, it seems important for the BHA to deal with such cases in a timely manner. Frost's initial complaint was made over a year ago, yet we still don't have a hearing date.

second case in which a female jockey has complained about a male jockey is running to a similarly protracted timetable, despite being concerned with just a single incident. Had these matters been dealt with efficiently and effectively, all involved would have been spared the sensation of something looming over them for months on end while bits of information turn up in the media, raising as many questions as answers.

At a separate disciplinary hearing last Thursday, the panel chairman quizzed the BHA's representative about why it had taken so long to bring a case deriving from a racecourse drug test taken in June last year. There was a long answer that took in several issues before a final mention of "capacity" as a contributing factor, apparently a reference to the capacity of the BHA's integrity team to deal with its workload. Whatever the explanation may be, such delays have been a problem for far too long and they are now causing bigger problems.


The Front Runner is our latest email newsletter available exclusively to Members' Club Ultimate subscribers. Chris Cook, a three-time Racing Reporter of the Year award winner, provides his take on the day's biggest stories and tips for the upcoming racing every morning from Monday to Friday


Is the source enjoying the spectacle of this one-sided battle? And what more blows are yet to be delivered?
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