Lee Newman looked to have a bright future ahead of him when he became champion apprentice jockey in 2000 at the age of 19. He rode 87 winners that year, most of them for Richard Hannon, to whose yard he was apprenticed. That was a post war record for top apprentice, more than Pat Eddery or Willie Carson achieved. Newman weighed just 5st 12 lbs. Three years later he had given up riding, having struggled to keep his weight down. His father, Nat, had a similar promising career as a jockey, but had to give it up when his weight ballooned.
Newman went off to work for Tote Investments in Barbados, but in time the lure of riding caught him up, and in 2010 he returned to the saddle. The omens for success were not great; he had to lose five stones in weight to get down to 8st 4lbs. Last year was reasonably successful, with 47 winners, but this season has proved harder, and he’s only piloted six of his 151 rides home in first place.
Weight has continued to be a problem, and now Newman has decided to call it a day once again, and this time he says there will be no return in the future. He said, “I’ve been finding it tough both physically and mentally. My body is telling me enough is enough, and, while my heart isn’t in it any more, I’ve made the decision for health reasons.”
It would be surprising if Newman has not banged on a few pounds during the last month, as he’s had an enforced lay off after the stewards at Newbury decided that the moment a furlong out when he looked up and stopped riding was enough to cost his mount Russian Rave, trained by Jonathan Portman, the race. His 28-day ban finished on 24 August. Newman says that wasn’t a factor in his decision, and he had continued to receive the backing of Portman.
Simply, the jockey said, “It’s very hard to maintain my weight and I’ve lost the will to do it. I’m disappointed it’s come to this, but it’s not the end of the world.” Trainer David Barron, who regularly put Newman on board his horses, told the Racing Post, “Lee has been a good lad for us. It’s a pity this has happened, but it’s all weight related – something that can happen with jockeys. We live in an age where we are all getting bigger and it makes you wonder why horses don’t carry bigger weights because, believe me, they can.”
As for his future, Newman takes the Wilkins Micawber approach, saying, “I’ve no idea what I’ll do, but something will come along.” He hopes it will be in racing.