UNSOCIAL MEDIA

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Hope you fall and break your neck’, I shouted to a roofer as I walked past the house he was working on. ‘Useless c*nt’ was a fair comment to make as the waitress forgot to bring cutlery to our table during a family meal. When the postman put a neighbours’ letter through my door the only recourse was to setup an anonymous email account, find out the postman’s email address and send a message telling him that I hope he develops cancer for making this unforgivable error.Of course, I never said any of these things! No one in the real world would talk this way.

SO WHY IS IT ACCEPTABLE TO SAY THESE THINGS TO JOCKEYS AND TRAINERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

Twitter and Facebook give us horse racing fans a chance like never before to talk directly to our idols, to go behind the scenes in their lives. They post videos, tell us how they are doing, give us up-to-the-minute reports on any injuries, inform us of the wellbeing of horses and answer our many questions. What a fantastic invention. WHAT IS GOING THROUGH A PERSON’S HEAD TO SEND VITRIOLIC MESSAGES TO PEOPLE JUST DOING THEIR JOBS? Lost money.

Betting has a connection with horse racing like no other sport. Every fifteen minutes, 364 afternoons a year there’s a horse race to gamble your money on. In bookmakers nationwide there’s normally at least one fella shouting at the television screens when a selection gets beat ‘Shocking ride that’, ‘racing is bent’, pens are thrown and betting slips torn in anger. Standard practice. Betting shop etiquette is to usually agree with the irate fella; tell him it was a poor ride, even tell him you backed it too! The emotion of losing is uncontrollable for some; they need to vent; they need to blame someone for their loss. Having a little shout in the bookies is ok by me. Once the initial anger fades, conversation moves on. A handful of people have seen you acting like an idiot but that’s the end of it. Social media by contrast has developed into a bear pit for those seeking to push their agenda of hate. People can tag losing jockeys and trainers into tweets and posts, and there’s no filter. The initial anger felt when a selection loses doesn’t fade. An innocent post about a race from At The Races can turn into a pile-on in minutes. A jockey’s skills, desire and integrity are torn apart when two or three likeminded idiots agree that a better jump at the last would’ve ensured victory. ‘Cheating ****’, ‘not the first time he’s done that’. Like they’d know.

Replays are innocently posted throughout the day and it all starts again. You can tweet the trainer, owner and jockey, unload your feelings, tell them what you really think without repercussion. Insanity! These people you’re trolling are human beings doing their job. Being a jockey is one of the most demanding professions around. A devotion from childhood; early morning starts, late finishes, hundreds of miles of travelling per week, competition for rides, strict dieting, mental fatigue of missing family life. Then there’s the riding itself; speed, risk of injury, pressure to perform, owner expectation, trainer expectation, controlling an animal weighing half a tonne, some job! And yet they still find time to tweet and be social. A quick search of Barry Geraghty on Twitter brings up ‘Bent Barry’, ‘Barry the Bastard’ and ‘he’s always getting favourites beat’ type tweets (plus much worse).

Geraghty is a multiple Grade One winning jockey, a Grand National winner, a man who through his role as JP McManus’ retained jockey, rides a high number of young horses, horses with barely any racecourse experience. They’re temperamental, they don’t settle. But they go off favourite due to the hefty price tags paid by the boss! Beaten favourites entice the trolls like a wedge of cheese to a mouse. Bent Barry? No chance. In 2018, aspiring claimer, Charlie Hammond had ridden a WINNER at Uttoxeter for trainer Dr Richard Newland. A losing punter logged onto Facebook to tell Charlie he’d be getting his teeth smashed down his throat for not winning the race by a greater distance. This is someone’s son learning his craft, actually winning a race and still he’s trolled!

Ruby Walsh, one of the sport’s greatest ever jockeys was accused multiple times of jumping off horses to throw races. With Cheltenham a fortnight away, replays of Ruby’s most high-profile fall at the Festival is doing the rounds. ‘Corrupt C*nt’ is still the theme of most threads. The most successful Cheltenham Festival jockey ever is corrupt? Idiots.

It’s safe to say almost every jockey, owner, trainer, blogger and TV pundit has been trolled at one time or another.

There isn’t any more hate in the world than before. The ability for the toxic minority to have their hatred heard is easier than ever though. We need to stand up against it right now. Report the accounts who are trolling, encourage people to be nicer. Before you type your hate remember the person receiving it is a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a human being. Would you want your daughter to be called a useless c*nt for doing their job? Or a stranger to wish cancer on your dad in work? Please think.

Article written by @GreenandGold__