Sunday Sermon. Get off the backs of jockeys and stop abusing them

Sunday Sermon. Get off the backs of jockeys and stop abusing them
The Profitable Punter and Richard Hughes, Champion Jockey 2012

Richard Hughes and Vernon Grant discussed online criticism

The boss of Twitter says he is going to do something about online trolls. He has pledged to take them on and prevent them from abusing others. I wish him God’s speed in that mission. And so will many jockeys.

The men and women who daily risk their lives when riding thoroughbred racehorses have been on the receiving end of dogs abuse from the keyboard warriors.

I’d love it were jockeys allowed just one day when they could reply in kind. Jockeys could tell the hopeless, jobless, bank clerks, disaffected, drunks, disappointed and Jeremy Kyle show viewers that they were losers.

They could accuse them of cheating. Why not? That’s what so many supposed racing fans do. Jockeys could out them as cheating on their wives, or benefits. See how they like the bitter taste of their own medicine.

Most jockeys, even the very best, have been on the receiving end of some truly vile tweets. Success in the saddle has not protected them from the trolls. Richard Hughes grew weary of it and quit Twitter. The man who introduced him to the social media site, Tony McCoy, regularly receives nasty tweets, even threats. Never mind that he’s ridden more winners than any before him or, likely, will ever do in the future.

Younger jockeys such as Brendan Powell and Sam Twiston-Davies have been targeted by keyboard cowards who think they could ride better. I’d like to seem them try!

Sam Twiston-Davies

Sam Twiston-Davies

Powell was hurt by the remarks. His father and others came out in his support. Twiston-Davies, a talented young man with a wicked sense of humour, spent some time replying to the abuse with witty and sarcastic comments.

He also said: “Jockeys are on twitter to try to promote racing and share opinions to those who care. We’re not here to throw abuse at when money is lost!”

Well said young man.

We’ve all sent out tweets we should have thought twice about publishing. But most of us are normal people. By far the majority of the people on Twitter who follow the great sport of racing are kind, polite, sensible and well mannered folk.

But those trolls are a scourge on the sport and, of course, on society as a whole. They are a threat to the positive possibilities of social media. Some abuse jockeys simply for the hell of it. Others because they’ve lost a bet.

I too have lost money on horses ridden by jockeys who may not have performed at their best. But I too have bad days at the office and I would not dream of sending a message to a jockey telling them how they should do their job, or accusing them of cheating.

I couldn’t ride a thoroughbred racehorse at 5mph, let alone at 35mph. I don’t know how to do their job better and nor do those who fire off their hateful comments.

As champion flat jockey Richard Hughes said to me on camera in his home: “We do know when we’ve got it wrong. We’re not eejits.”

No Richard, you’re not. But that’s the nicest word I would use to describe those who call you and your fellow jockeys much worse.

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