Many may have missed the latest episode surrounding racecourse meals provided for the jockeys.
Danny Mullins was the latest rider to lose his rag over the quality of grub supplied to the guys and gals on the front line of our great industry. It’s just possible that he may end up paying far more than the €5 Killarney charged for a salad, if Cathy Gannon’s experience is anything to go by.
On Wednesday Mullins voiced his annoyance and placed a photo on social media of the offending meal. The picture certainly didn’t flatter the alleged chicken salad. A less than amused Mullins said on his Twitter page: “Great value for the salad €5 @KillarneyRaces wouldn't feed a rabbit!" He added: “A few of the tracks provide food for jockeys that is well below standard. I hate to be the one giving out about it. I've only been riding for a few years and even in that time I have seen a dramatic improvement in the quality of food at a lot of tracks.”
Of course the standard of food is a very subjective matter. The offending salad may well have appealed to the likes of Flat Jockey George Baker, who has to survive on far less to maintain his riding weight.
In May Cathy Gannon was fined for raising the issue in similar fashion when she tweeted a picture of food at Newbury Racecourse. She took photos of two dishes and said: “This is the quality of food at @NewburyRacing this is our fuel #athletes.” Following a report from the clerk of the course stating that Gannon had taken a photograph on her mobile phone from within the jockeys’ changing room, which she later put on Twitter, they interviewed the rider.
Having heard the evidence, stewards found her to be in breach of rule (D)33.1. The subsequent £290 fine was no doubt harder to swallow than anything the Newbury canteen could have dished up. Paul Struthers; Professional Jockeys Association Chief Executive, later commented: “Fined £290 for taking a picture after you've finished riding and tweeting it after leaving the racecourse. #pathetic.”
Thankfully Cathy’s colleagues helped pay for the fine and thereby softened the blow. Danny Mullins may need similar assistance should the matter at Killarney be taken further.
Their racecourse manager Micheal Lucey spoke of the issue, saying: “I am a bit perplexed about it really as Dr McGoldrick (Senior medical officer of the Turf Club) only commented to me this morning on how much we had done to improve the food for jockeys at Killarney. Concerns were raised previously by Davy Russell and we spoke to Dr McGoldrick about the situation. He had a dietician compile a sheet on nutrition and what type of food we needed to be serving.”
Mullins did go on to praise Gowran Park and Wexford racecourses for the way they have improved the quality of their food, and added that Galway, Leopardstown and Punchestown also provide better quality nourishment.
The jockey was less complimentary of Kilbeggan and Clonmel, naming them as two other tracks needing to step up. Leading rider Davy Russell appeared to back Mullins when responding on twitter with: “@dan2231 @KillarneyRaces it's a bit of a joke really it's just a low grade track with them facilities.”
The Professional Jockeys Association has their own Nutrition team, tasked with supporting and educating riders on foods essential for a successful career. Just how close a relationship they have with racecourses is unclear, and is something that I am currently looking into. But it seems likely that racecourses may well benefit from a level of input from the PJA Nutrition experts, hopefully setting a standard that both jockeys and the courses could agree on.
A huge fine for a disgruntled and hungry jockey is simply unacceptable. Let’s hope this latest voice is heard and acted upon in a rather more positive fashion.