Tag Archive for: Weights

Professional Jockeys Association seeking ‘solutions’ in weights row

Officials at the Professional Jockeys Association are working towards “finding potential solutions” with the British Horseracing Authority in the dispute over a planned 2lb rise in handicap weights.

The BHA announced on Tuesday that a 2lb rise in bottom and top weights will be introduced in the spring, while also bringing to an end the 3lb allowance given to jockeys as a temporary measure during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the resumption of racing following the first Covid lockdown, jockeys had been given an extra 3lb to mitigate the closure of saunas and gyms, which potentially impacted their ability to manage their weight. It was announced in November that saunas would be permanently removed from the weighing room.

The BHA underlined on Wednesday the decision to increase weights whilst removing the 3lb allowance had been taken by a group with “cross-industry representation”, including the PJA.

Jamie Spencer is one of those hoping a compromise can be reached between the BHA and PJA
Jamie Spencer is one of those hoping a compromise can be reached between the BHA and PJA (Tim Goode/PA)

However, Dale Gibson, interim CEO of the PJA, believes there is room for further negotiation on the subject, with some riders expected to find it “challenging” to recalibrate their weights under the new system.

In a statement, he said: “The general feeling amongst jockeys has centred around the removal of the additional Covid allowance which was introduced prior to the resumption of racing in June 2020.

“That extra weight allowance has naturally proved popular; indeed, jockeys overall health and outlook has improved along with the benefits of the sauna being out of action.

“Most jockeys’ body weight, whilst remaining superbly fit athletes, has therefore adapted in line with that allowance over the preceding 19 months. They will have to reset their body weight to ride at their current individual minimum weight. Some will find that challenging.

“In an ideal world the ‘health allowance’ needs to continue, as the human welfare benefits are evident. We are in process of finding potential solutions with the BHA.”

A petition set up to campaign for the allowance to remain had been signed by over 1,500 people on Thursday morning.

Adam Kirby in winning action at Southwell aboard Symbol Of Light
Adam Kirby in winning action at Southwell aboard Symbol Of Light (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Derby-winning rider Adam Kirby feels the 3lb allowance should have been left unchanged and is hoping the decision will be overturned.

“It won’t be good for me, it won’t be good for anyone. I don’t get why the allowance was a problem in the first place,” he told Sky Sports Racing after partnering Symbol Of Light to victory at Southwell.

“I don’t get what they’ve achieved by taking it away from us. We were left completely in the dark about it and all of a sudden it’s jumped on you, which is wrong.

“I felt better with the allowance and 3lb is a massive help to us. It’s no hindrance at all to the horses. Track records have been broken, horses’ soundness is good.

“Just taking it away is completely wrong in my opinion and I don’t even know why it’s been brought in that way, but hopefully we’ll get that overturned.”

Spencer hopes compromise can be reached in weights clash

Jamie Spencer believes a compromise between the British Horseracing Authority and jockeys can be reached over the planned 2lb rise in weights set to be introduced in the spring.

The BHA announced on Tuesday that the current 3lb allowance introduced as a temporary Covid-19 measure back in June 2020 will be replaced by a permanent 2lb rise in the weights, with a further 3lb allowed for safety equipment and 1lb for Flat riders in winter to allow for extra warm clothing.

The decision has prompted fierce criticism from some in the weighing room who are unhappy to have the allowance effectively reduced by 1lb in light of the news in November that saunas would no longer be part of the weighing room facilities.

The 2lb rise was agreed by the Racing Group, which includes cross-industry representation, and the BHA underlined on Wednesday that the process “followed to implement these changes included consultation with jockeys, through multiple meetings with the Professional Jockeys Association”.

Jamie Spencer is one of the most experienced jockeys in the weighing room
Jamie Spencer is one of the most experienced jockeys in the weighing room (Mike Egerton/PA)

Spencer, a senior member of the weighing room whose career has spanned more than 20 years, thinks the extra allowance has proved a huge plus for the health of riders.

He said: “The way I look at most things is, ‘the less said, easier mended’, so I generally don’t comment on things, but I do feel this hasn’t been thought out.

“In my mind, the weighing room was a lot happier place when jockeys had the 6lb. It doesn’t affect me probably as much as some other riders.

“I see them and they are not taking shortcuts. They are doing their level best and training every day to get to their weight and with the 3lb, it obviously made it a lot easier.”

Under the revised system the top weight in a Flat race will now be 10st 2lb, with Spencer insisting most horses would be unaffected by heavier imposts.

He added: “As regard for horse welfare, an extra 3lb, for example a horse carrying 9st 8lb versus carrying 9st 5lb, I don’t think that argument holds up very strong.

“Show me a horse in the morning carrying less than 10st. The riding-out equipment is a lot heavier in the morning.

“I just think that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it – I just don’t get why this has happened.

“It is disappointing. I usually let things go along and never comment, but I do feel strongly about this.

“You look at the weighing room. There are kids in there who are like giants coming towards me. The average height and weight must be going up.

“I just think the powers that be and the PJA need to sit down and thrash this out. Who in their right mind would have voted to give away 3lb?

“It is small things. You are more hydrated if you are 3lb heavier – it is better for you.

“I am sure a compromise can happen. I didn’t even know this was happening until the media did.

“It will affect me, but it will affect a lot of people more than me. I’m not saying it in a selfish way, I’m just saying it as an overall view, for the collective, that I hope they can come to a reasonable solution where everyone is happy.”

Former champion NH jockey Brian Hughes has had his say
Former champion NH jockey Brian Hughes has had his say (Mike Egerton/PA)

Former champion jump jockey Brian Hughes admits the 2lb rise in weights will make little difference to him personally, but is worried about the welfare implications of increasing the top weight in National Hunt races to 12st.

He said: “I’ve not got a lot of thoughts on it, to be honest. I’m not the heaviest person in the world, so I’m the wrong person to ask.

“I do feel, however, the top-weight going up to 12st doesn’t make much sense to me. I can understand why the bottom weights are going up, I’ve no issue with that, but for me the top-weight should stay at 11st 12lb.

“It’s a welfare thing. Trainers don’t want horses carrying lots of weight.”

BHA defends decision to raise riding weight despite jockeys’ criticism

The British Horseracing Authority has defended the planned 2lb weight rise announced on Tuesday in light of criticism from some jockeys.

Since the resumption of racing following the first Covid lockdown, jockeys had been given a 3lb allowance as a temporary measure with saunas and gyms out of action. It was announced in November that saunas would be permanently removed from the weighing room.

The BHA will introduce a 2lb rise in bottom and top weights on March 26, replacing the 3lb allowance, although Dale Gibson, Professional Jockeys Association Interim CEO, said “some jockeys are concerned that their body weight has naturally increased during the lengthy Covid period where the 3lb allowance was utilised”.

In a statement on Wednesday, the BHA said: “In light of comments made in relation to the 2lb riding weight increased announced yesterday, the BHA would like to clarify a few areas in relation to the policy and consultation.

“The 3lb Covid allowance was a temporary, emergency measure introduced to support jockeys when saunas and gyms were closed as an infection control measure.

“As part of the consultation regarding the potential removal of saunas, longer-term solutions were discussed to ensure that jockeys continue to be supported should saunas be removed.

“The 3lb Covid allowance has not been removed in its entirety, as has been suggested. It has been replaced by a 2lb rise in both min and max weights in all races other than Pattern races (where weights structure will be reviewed on a race-by-race basis) and Flat amateur races.

“The raising of the maximum weight in handicaps has the effect of shifting the weights up, meaning all riders will carry 2lb more than previously was the case in the vast majority of GB races pre-Covid, and just 1lb less than during temporary Covid measures.

“A 3lb allowance for safety equipment, introduced following the requirement to wear a Level 2 body protector, will remain in place, as will a further 1lb allowance for all Flat jockeys during the winter months to account for an extra layer of warm clothing

“The 2lb rise also brings maximum weights in line with those in Ireland.

“The 2lb weight rise was agreed by the industry Racing Group, which includes cross-industry representation. The process that was followed to implement these changes included consultation with jockeys, through multiple meetings with the PJA.

“This is an issue which affects more than one part of the sport, and as such consultation also took in views from other sectors. Concerns were expressed by NTF (National Trainers Federation) about potential impact on some horses of routinely setting higher weights.

“Decisions such as this require a balancing of the varying views collected through the consultation to determine the most appropriate recommendations. The resultant recommendations were then presented to the cross-industry Racing Group prior to being ratified by the BHA board.

“The 2lb weight rise is 1lb less than was requested by the PJA through the consultation, and is an outcome which reflects consideration and balancing of all of the conflicting views presented by the parties consulted with.

“Further to the consultation with their representative body, the BHA would of course be happy to discuss and explain the changes with any jockeys who would like to speak further with us.”

Several jockeys are mulling over what steps to take following the announcement.

Liam Keniry said the mood was one of frustration rather than anger.

He said: “It definitely was not what we were expecting, really. We obviously did the vote, which I don’t know what happened to that. Collectively everyone’s not very happy at all – the saunas have been ripped out and we’re not keeping our allowance. They have given with one hand and taken away with the other.

“The majority of the weighing room all feel the same way.

“I don’t know what the course of action will be. I haven’t spoken to Dale (Gibson) yet. I didn’t hear anything about strike action, but there is a level of frustration rather than anger.”

Former jockey Nicky Adams, now an agent to Flat jockey Adam Kirby among others, said: “It has worked perfectly well.

“Everybody knew that when Covid arrived they stopped the saunas, which was probably a blessing in disguise as far as the racecourses were concerned as they wanted to get rid of them for a long time. They gave everybody 3lb and now they are taking it away and not giving them anything. It is ridiculous.

“People are always going to have to lose a bit of weight somehow, because that is just the way the game was years ago, let alone now.

“We have just all got used to having the 3lb and now they are messing about with it again. Listening to the jocks, I don’t think anyone is happy about it at all.

“All the jocks have got used to that 3lb allowance now and we have got on fine with it for two years, so why they suddenly have to change the system is ludicrous, really.

“We have all got used to it, we all know where we stand with it and to go changing it again doesn’t help anyone to be totally honest – and that is from a former lightweight jockey.”