Jockeys angry as September break turns out not be a break

Coleman - leading the compaints

Coleman - leading the compaints

The decision of the British Horseracing Authority to award one of its autumn twilight fixtures to Stratford on 17 September brought a torrent of dismay from jump jockeys. There’s no issue about an extra meeting, or about one going to Stratford; it’s the timing that has them up in arms.

Jump racing is currently on an eight-day summer break, and a second similar holiday is in the calendar for the period 14-21 September. Jockeys have previously suggested that the two separate breaks are combined, to give them all a decent chance to recharge their batteries. Now one of those spells will feature an isolated meeting right in the middle, a move that is hardly going to endear the BHA to those most affected.

Jockey Aidan Coleman, who rides primarily for the Venetia Williams stable, told the Racing Post, “It is disappointing they have put Stratford in the middle of the eight days because that basically ruins the break. We’re all in favour of extra meetings but the timing isn’t ideal; a couple of days either side would have been much better. I personally haven’t arranged a holiday, but would definitely have gone away somewhere, and now can’t.”

Pal Struthers, chief executive of the Professional Jockeys’ Association was caught on the hop by the move, which he describes as disappointing and frustrating. He was on holiday when the BHA was consulting about the fixtures for the Twilight Trial, and nobody else at the PJA responded.

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When the BHA were asked about the reason for selecting that particular date, it sounded as if they realised they had made a poor decision, but didn’t want to say so. Spokesman Robin Mounsey said, “The existing gap in the jump racing schedule in September is a legacy from when this period used to be the formal break period. However, it was subsequently identified that this was not the optimum period for this break, hence the August break was engineered in its place.” Yes, Robin, except that the September break was left in place, wasn’t it?

Mounsey went on, “Consequently, when we received an application from Stratford there was no reason why a fixture could not be programme don this date, on a trial basis. Horsemen were informed this would be the case.”

We have, then, a situation that a period that used to a break isn’t any longer, except that there are no fixtures in it, so to all intents and purposes it is a break. But because it isn’t officially a break, we’ll put a meeting smack in the middle of it, as part of a trial that runs three weeks either side.

On the whole, over the last year the BHA has done much to improve its image in the racing industry. This is not one of the better decisions it’s made, and goes to show that however much it has smartened itself up, it can still make decisions that are at best, thoughtless and amateurish, and that show a complete lack of consideration for the jockeys at the heart of jump racing.

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