The British Horseracing Authority announced increase in the minimum weight of 2lb to 8 stone, effective from 1 January 2013. It’s the first increase since 2002, though current lightweight Nicky MacKay was quick to remind us of days when the minimum was as low as 7st 7lbs. He said, “It’s not like when my dad (Allan) and Gary Bardwell were around; they made a living out of doing 7st 12 lb or below.”
Dr Michael Turner, who as Chief Medical Officer to the BHA has overseen the minimum weight rise twice since he took on that role in 1992, said, “The rise in the minimum weight in Flat racing was an obvious step to take in view of the fact that the average weight of the British population is rising at a rate of 1 lb every three years.
The increase has the full support of the Professional Jockeys’ Association, and is one of a package of measures designed to improve jockey welfare, so that jockeys ride at a weight that is suitable for their well being. Other changes mean each jockey’s individual minimum weight will be determined by their riding weight in the previous season. Apprentices will be scanned to measure their bone density; with a view to ensuring this does not fall to levels which could endanger their physical development and health.
In practice, there are few rides at less than 8st; last season just 94 out of a total of 59,592, so the impact won’t be huge. One of the riders who can do the ultra light weight, James Sullivan, said, “There aren’t many jockeys who can do les than 8st 4lb, which means there is still a weight range where people like me pick up the majority of our rides. What I wouldn’t want to see is the BHA deciding to raise the minimum weight to the 8st 4lb they have in Ireland.”
The increase does bring Britain’s minimum weight up to the same as applies in France, although it is lower than in Australia and America as well as Ireland.
Another light rider, Duran Fentiman, welcomed the move. He said, “I rode at 7st 12lb three times this year, but I refuse to do it week in, week out. I can do 8st and, if anything, raising the minimum weight will take a bit of pressure off because people won’t be ringing up asking if I will do 7st 12lb.”
Pass me a cream cake, please.