WHAT happened to Irish jockey Aidan Coleman last week was disgraceful and a bit scary to say the least.
For those not in the know, the Cork native was allegedly set upon and punched by race goers at Southwell Racecourse, suffering two chipped teeth and a bloodied nose.
He was unfazed and went back to work the next day, but that’s all we’re trying to do as jockeys – earn a living. I know we’re also there to entertain, but our main aim is to bring home a wage.
— Irish Post Sport (@IrishPostSport) September 30, 2015
Aidan was lucky to escape with minor injuries, imagine the culprits had hold of a knife? With the exception of Aintree, Ascot and Cheltenham, not many racetracks have proper security and don’t check race goers for weapons.
With people drinking all day at the races, it’s not just jockeys who are at threat – bookmakers are too. If a bookie has had a good day and he’s spotted walking out to his car at the end of the day, what happens then?
I know they’re reviewing the situation but they shouldn’t even have to take the time to review improving safety at racetracks, they should just get on with it. Some racetracks don’t like spending money on things they don’t think are broken, but when someone’s safety comes under threat there should be no excuses.
Saying that, I was at Wolverhampton two days after the Coleman incident and there was security on the back door of the jockeys’ entrance, which is unusual.
I remember one incident when I feared for my own safety. I was in Doncaster and as I was walking back to my car after the last race there was six lads surrounding it. I had been beaten as a favourite that day but I’d also won on a 14/1 shot, so I was thinking ‘what if these guys have lost serious money on that favourite?’
Thankfully, they’d actually been on the 14/1 winner and they were just there for the craic, but they were completely intoxicated and people can be aggressive without even realising it. It could just as easily have gone the other way.
I don’t think lost income was the motivation for the attack on Coleman, I think they were just intoxicated, but it puts things into perspective.
Don’t get me wrong, most race goers are there for a love of the sport, but you do get a minority of people who are only there for the drink and a day’s gambling.
But that’s not really their fault – when you have to pay £25 for admission you want to make the most of it, so it’s no wonder they turn it into an all-day session.
The prices you have to pay to get into the races these days makes it impossible for families to enjoy a day out at the races too. You’re talking £50 for a man and wife plus extra for the kids, they’d sooner go for a nice scenic walk together for free and who could blame them?
The upshot of that is we’re stopping the next generation of racing fans from coming through.
What I found from my time in France this summer is that a lot of the people going to the races there only pay around €7 to get in. And that price is still available even for some of the biggest races in Europe like the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The difference in value for money is astonishing.
Our system is totally wrong – people are overcharged all ends which means less runners and incidents like the Coleman one. In my view, the sport is being battered from both sides with families not coming through the gate, drunken people wandering around the venue and a smaller volume of runners because trainers can’t afford to supply a horse that might only win £120.
So my own personal view is that the authorities need to address the cost of attending racing events in the UK, and we’ll see less of this all-day drinking culture that can end in violence, and more budding jockeys and racing fans will emerge.