‘I’m disgusted’ – Jockeys fury at new minimum weight rules

Several leading jockeys have criticised the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) following new rules to increase minimum riding weights after the permanent closure of racecourse saunas.

The BHA confirmed on Tuesday that minimum riding weights for both Flat and Jump jockeys will be permanently raised by 2lb.

Initially weights were raised by 3lb following the resumption of racing after the first Covid lockdown but following extensive discussions, the consensus was a 2lb allowance should be permanent with saunas no longer in use on racecourses.

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Jockey Jason Watson has expressed his anger over the BHA’s decision to implement new minimum weights for jockeys of both codes, replacing the 3lb allowance that had been permitted when racecourse saunas closed.

From Saturday, March 26 the minimum weight carried by Flat jockeys will be 8st 2lb while their jumping counterparts will ride from a minimum of 10st 2lb from Friday, April 29.

The 3lb Covid allowance will remain in place until the new revised weights structure is implemented.

A 3lb allowance for safety equipment, introduced following the requirement to wear a Level 2 body protector, will remain in place, as will a further 1lb allowance for all Flat jockeys during the winter months to account for an extra layer of warming clothing, a provision that has been in operation since 2013.

The BHA confirmed their position on Wednesday, stating that the 2lbs weight rise was agreed by the industry Racing Group, which includes cross-industry representation.

They also said that process that was followed to implement these changes included consultation with jockeys, through multiple meetings with the Professional Jockeys’ Association.

This decision has drawn criticism from several leading flat jockeys, including Group One-winning rider Jason Watson who is ‘disgusted’ by the ruling.

“I think the people that are making these decisions should come and live a day with us,” he said. “It’s not on.

“We’re the ones living it and the people making the decisions are going home, having dinners every night and not doing the hours that we do and running out of hours to drop off the weight.

“I feel like we’ve been cheated out of something we agreed to do. People have been getting bigger and taller for decades now and we need to keep up with that.

“I’m disgusted really by what’s being said and totally against it.”

Fellow rider Sean Levey added that the move is a backwards step for all jockeys, not just those who struggle to make weight.

“It was a great step forward when Covid hit that they took away the saunas,” said the Classic-winning rider.

“The [Covid] allowance has helped everyone, from Adam Kirby all the way down to the apprentices who have their claims.

“This now seems like one step forward and two steps back.

“The saunas were an easy way to make weight but we were all in agreement we were happy to get rid of them because of the 3lb filled that void.

“They’ve now made it twice as difficult to do the weights we still have to do. We’re losing out more than we’re ever gaining.”

Jockey Richard Kingscote added the majority of the weighing room are not happy about the decision, including that they were ‘kept in the dark’ over discussions.

“Collectively, everyone is not very happy,” Kingscote said. “We were given a questionnaire vote, which everyone responded to and said we’re happy to get rid of the saunas if we keep our allowance.

“The 2lb may help on a maiden but it’s not going to help in a handicap. We’re back to square one.

“People feel as though they are giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

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Former jockeys Mick Fitzgerald and Seb Sanders had a lively debate after the BHA announced they would be raising the minimum weight a rider can carry, replacing a 3lb allowance put in place following the closure of racecourse saunas.

“It’s frustrating that we were kept in the dark. No one heard anything about it until today. Hopefully people can open it back out, talk and figure something out.”

Sky Sports Racing pundit and former jockey Mick Fitzgerald admitted that while this move will lead to short-term pain for jockeys, the removal of saunas on course is the correct decision.

“I think that in the long run, getting rid of the saunas is the best thing but in the short-term there’s going to be quite a bit of pain.

“I can’t speak for flat jockeys because I was a jump jockey but as a rule, they are better prepared now nutrition-wise and a lot of them who are able to take in on the ground.

“The problem is that a lot of lads out there are struggling with their weight but they are desperate to do the job and they will resort to desperate measures.”

Classic winner Seb Sanders disagreed with that view, taking the stance that jockeys should be able to make their own decisions and that this ruling could make things worse for them as a result.

“This has to be taken very, very seriously. I think there’s a generation of jockeys that are saying they are on these diets but I’m very worried about them.

“I think they are worse than getting into a sauna.”

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Former rider Jason Weaver says the BHA’s decision to raise the minimum weight for both flat and jump jockeys can carry is a ‘move forward’ following the closure of racecourse saunas. 

Former rider Jason Weaver felt the decision was a positive step for the sport, with the weight offsetting what he has called the right decision to close racecourse saunas.

“The boys have still got 2lb which I think they’ve done particularly well at,” he said. “Had it been back in the Dark Ages with the racing of yesteryear, they would’ve got nothing.

“There are warm-up areas introduced into the new weighing rooms for bikes and equicizers.

“The boys are going to have to manage it better as times are changing and things are moving forward.”

Source : Sky Sports