The Jonathan Quayle Higgins Column
THURSDAYS IN IRC NEWSLETTER

Forget Nostradamus and Joseph Smith and TB Joshua and the bloke who started the religion of peace – our own William Shakespeare is a prophet of a different class! Shakespeare described the social culture of his own time, stated a fundamental fact and saw centuries ahead into modern life with his oft quoted, ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players’!

No matter which sides you are on, most of us will agree that we live in an era of distorted truths and the pushing of media and other agendas, and this is not something likely to change in our lifetimes.

Last weel, Donald Trump announced that he will be establishing TRUTH Social, his own social media platform, to “stand up to the tyranny of big tech”. And this got me thinking about horseracing and the way our own racing media is controlling a narrative that is by no means one-sided. We’ve seen stuff akin to skewed reality shows playing out in sports like boxing, F1 and football, where the leading personalities are hunted, their moves monitored and often distorted truths reported. Racing is now also at risk of becoming a similar media stage with actors making fake representations, brown-nosing and lying outright to satisfy their masters.

With the Racing Post under constant editorial watch from its new owners; authorities and racecourses with their hands as good as tied by major sponsors, and prominent racing personalities promoting themselves and their views instead of reporting the facts, do we now perhaps also need a special racing platform for the real truth? Or will our truths (those away from the powerful mainstream), be condemned as the pushing of false conspiracies, like the mainstream media like to label political views away from the woke agendas?

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Racing’s two headline stories this past week was Oisin Murphy’s drunken behaviour in a Newmarket pub and his testing over the limit for alcohol on a race day, and Bryony Frost’s claims against fellow-jock Robbie Dunne that fell into media hands following a breach of code at the British Horseracing Authority.

Let’s look at the different sides to these stories.

In chatting to the IRC’s Joao Da Mata about Oisin Murphy, he felt that Oisin was unfairly treated by the press last Saturday and commented: “It was so refreshing to see and hear Sheik Fahad stand by his jockey when Ed Chamberlin (Mr Vanilla himself) proceeded to interrogate the Sheik whilst trying to get him to follow in his clear agenda.

“What about the damage stories like this do to the industry? Sheikh Fahad said: ‘I think Oisin’s done more good than bad. I think he’s brought a lot of people into racing, a lot of the young lads. Unless you have walked in his shoes, you have no right to say anything. No-one’s dead and everyone makes mistakes. He’s a growing man, still a young lad.’ Ed Chamberlin wanted Sheik Fahad to criticise Oisin Murphy. The question is, why? I cannot find the answer anywhere.”

I agree with Joao that Champions Day was not the right platform to discuss an incident in a pub and I, too, was wondering why Chamberlin just didn’t just apply his focus on the horses, the races and Murphy’s title.

But upon investigation, I learnt that Murphy’s behaviour in the pub went beyond an ordinary drunk lad swinging about and talking a bit of nonsense. He is alleged to have confronted trainer Charlie Hills first, complaining about rides, and when a nearby bloodstock agent asked him to stop, he smashed a plastic beer mug in his face and a further head-butt reportedly followed. Some say there was blood, others say there wasn’t. But there were definitely bloodstock agents and weekend guests from around the world in this pub. What picture of UK racing did Murphy sketch with this type of behaviour?

Point is, Murphy, with a previous cocaine charge and a failed breathalyser test in 2019, is no angel, and in failing to criticise him, Sheikh Fahad was arguably wrong. Then again, the Sheikh is chief executive of Qipco, a Qatari sovereign wealth fund which is the main sponsor of Champions Day, and nobody would have dared to take a stand against Qatar Racing’s soft approach toward their jockey.

Meanwhile Nick Luck (he who appears in a suit on what is supposed to be a relaxed Sunday morning show), pussy-footed around the matter when he almost certainly knew what had really transpired and had a chance to unpack and close the incident once and for all.

In the Bryony Frost case, first we have the BHA leaking documents to the media, interestingly on the eve of Champions Day. Some say this was to take the heat of Oisin Murphy, to divert attention elsewhere. Also, said a jumps racing insider, Bryony had over-reacted. She accused Dunne of foul and unacceptable language, but this is way the tough-as-nails jump jockeys talk to each other in the heat of the moment following a typically rough race. Bad language and arguments are as much a part of jumps racing as the grass they race on!

“The female riders want to be treated as ‘one of the boys’, but when it comes to the crunch Bryony ran to daddy, the BHA and the press! Her father, Jimmy Frost was known for his no-nonsense attitude, he was as tough as they come, he should have settled this matter between her and Dunne before it was blown out of proportion. They’re using a journeyman jockey who works hard for a living to push this case. Now racing is being widely portrayed as having a ‘bullying culture’ in which females are being discriminated against. All bullshit!’

Tough one to take a stance on, the Frost/Dunne case. But to wrap, we have enough evidence now to know that racing has become a stage act with some wonderful role-playing and if you’re an outsider, it is a play you will probably enjoy, like you enjoyed details of Tiger Woods’ sexcapades and the Verstappen/Hamilton feuds on the F1 circuit.

Yes, racing is entering a new era. Everyone’s involved in painting pictures (some of them colourful but false) as we move further and further away from the core of it all and into an unknown and always flexing fantasy realm which changes direction with the flow of money, personal allegiances, the agenda of the woke and the needs and habits of millions of addicts on social media.

Questions are, what is good press and what is bad? Is all and any media coverage good for the game? Will the increasing exposure in this manner bring new fans to racing, or push them away?  – IRC.

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