Friday 19 January 2018

'A slap from a drunk wouldn't be enough to stop us jump jockeys' – Aidan Coleman on post-race assault

Cork jockey Aidan Coleman
Cork jockey Aidan Coleman

Chris Wilson

Aidan Coleman has questioned why the four people believed to have been linked with an alleged assault on the jockey at Southwell on Tuesday were not escorted from the racecourse sooner.

Two men and two women were arrested by Nottinghamshire Police in connection with the incident which occurred after the final race on the card at 5.10pm, in which Coleman finished last aboard Sawwala.

A stewards' report from Southwell said two members of the general public gained access into the jockeys' changing room, with Coleman having sustained minor injuries, including two chipped teeth requiring dentistry work.

Southwell general manager Mark Clayton confirmed that course officials had refused to serve alcohol from 4pm to the four people believed to have been those arrested.

Clayton said security on racedays would now be heightened, but Coleman said: "The people at fault are the two that got into the jockeys' changing room, and the only comment I would make is to question why they were still on racecourse in the state they were.

"Southwell have announced that they are beefing up security so from my perspective it's over, though of course the police investigation will continue so I wouldn't have any more to say about it anyway.

"Us jumps jockeys are a tough bunch and a slap from a drunk wouldn't be enough to stop us going back to work the next day."

Nottinghamshire Police said in a statement on Tuesday evening that two men and one woman were arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage, with another woman arrested on suspicion of obstructing police.

Arena Racing Company, which owns Southwell and 14 other tracks, said the four people linked with the alleged assault would be banned from its racecourses.

Professional Jockeys Association chief executive Paul Struthers wants other racecourses to follow Southwell's lead by assessing any potential breaches of security.

He said: "We would ask other racecourses to review their arrangements and satisfy themselves that this couldn't happen at their track.

"One of the big attractions of horse racing is how close the public are able to get to the jockeys and how accessible they are, and we would not want this to change.

"Thankfully, these incidents are very rare indeed but they undermine the confidence of jockeys and racegoers and highlight the importance of a responsible approach to alcohol sales and the need for appropriate security arrangements that ensure such undesirables are not allowed to remain on the premises."

Racecourse Association chief executive Stephen Atkin is adamant the sale of alcohol on tracks across Britain is "perfectly reasonable", with measures in place to "encourage responsible behaviour".

He told At The Races: "We are a major sport and we attract a cross-section of society and we are keen to do that.

"We do serve alcohol at racecourses, that is something our customers want, and that is perfectly reasonable.

"We have a responsible drinking campaign, which is adopted by all racecourses, which encourages members of the public to pace themselves and ensures racecourses also make water free at the point of sale of alcohol.

"There's a lot on tracks already to encourage responsible behaviour by our racegoers."

There was no on-course police presence at Southwell on Tuesday, but Atkin said that was to be expected at a small National Hunt meeting during the week.

The RCA will now liaise with its members to assess jockeys' future security.

PJA safety officer Andrew Thornton is convinced the alleged assault on Coleman was "a one-off".

Thornton, a weighing-room veteran, said: "One thing us jockeys are not are prima donnas - we are quite good at handling ourselves.

"There are always a lot of us in the changing room, and that's not to mention the valets, so you'll never be in a position where you are faced one-on-one with someone.

"As far as security is concerned, you'd like to think this was just a one-off."

The British Horseracing Authority is helping Nottinghamshire Police with their inquiries, but racing's governing body has also launched its own investigation.

Jamie Stier, BHA director of raceday operation and regulation, said: "We are deeply concerned about the events which took place at Southwell racecourse.

"Safety of participants and racegoers alike is of paramount importance, and the British Horseracing Authority sets and monitors many rules, licensing conditions and 'general instructions' designed to ensure such safety, working closely with racecourses.

"The police are conducting an investigation into the incident, to which we are assisting.

"We will continue to monitor the police investigation in order to ensure a proper understanding of the situation.

"We will also progress with our own investigation into the circumstances in which this totally unacceptable incident took place.

"Furthermore, we will be looking closely into the events with the racecourse management team at Southwell.

"We are pleased to hear reports that Aidan Coleman appears to be in a reasonably satisfactory condition, despite this incident.

"However, we do need to understand the circumstances which led this situation, and take any necessary steps to minimise future risk to the safety of our jockeys."

Press Association

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