No language barrier with stewards for foreign jockeys

Barzalona - taking English lessons

You don’t expect there to be a language barrier when jockeys are riding a horse. After all, most of the urging comes through shifting the weight, shaking the reins, squeezing the horse and judicious use of the whip rather than shouting “Gee up”, whatever the language.

There have been some concerns that jockeys have found it difficult to follow proceedings when they have been called to appear before the stewards. Local officials have mentioned both Mickael Barzalona and Raul de Silva as appearing to struggle during enquiries. But both the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and trainers who use the two jockeys played down any problems.

BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey explained, “When Mickael Barzalona first started taking rides in Britain, the BHA took measures to contact Godolphin (for whom Barzalona rides most frequently) in order to ensure there were mechanisms in place to allow Mickael to represent himself and connections adequately in stewards’ enquiries.”

Godolphin responded positively to that, as racing manager Simon Crisford explained. “We always make sure that when he rides one of our horses someone goes with him who can translate if translation is needed. Mickael is having English lessons and he is constantly communicating with other jockeys, which means his English is improving every day.”

De Silva has ridden five winners for Jeremy Gask this year, and the trainer has noticed a difference in the jockey’s ability to understand instructions and how well he can express himself. Gask says, “I’ve tried to impress on Raul that he needs to be able to explain himself better. I work with him every day, so I understand him, but his lack of English can be a slight hindrance. He tends to understand when things are being explained to him, but it can be tricky for others to understand when he attempts to put a point across.”

There’s no complacency about this issue at the BHA, although they are satisfied it isn’t a problem at the moment. Nevertheless, Mounsey says, “If it does come to light there are any issues relating to this then we will ensure we put in place systems to deal with the matter.”