A bit of a scoop today, dear reader, as our resident 'man on the inside', Ross Birkett, shares a few thoughts on life in the weighing room. I've also got some 54 year old Thursday Fun, as we celebrate the life of fine jockey and woeful writer, Dick Francis, with a very interesting review of the 1956 Grand National. Plus, for those who like to do their own number-crunching, there's a downloadable copy of my Grand National trends analysis spreadsheet.
First up, it's time to transport ourselves to that inner sanctum of the little people, the jockeys' weighing room, for a 'fly on the wall' insight into the shenanigans that ensue therein. Over to Ross:
The jockeyâ€™s weighing room: the so-called inner sanctum, the place where the public are prohibited from going, but is it all that secret?
What would surprise you most if you stepped into the place is the nudity - there are naked bodies everywhere. Whether they are hopping on the scales after a session in the sauna or just casually chilling out, the professional jocks love to do it without any clothes on.
Unfortunately, this habit doesnâ€™t extend as far as their female counterparts are concerned. If Hayley Turner needs to sweat off a few pounds, itâ€™s done in a bikini.
Amongst a bustling weighing room of miniature men, thereâ€™ll be two or three valets dotted around. Responsible for around ten riders each, these guys (most of whom are ex-riders themselves) take care of all their ladsâ€™ equipment - cleaning, repairing and making sure theyâ€™re the correct weight. They also provide banter. Being former jockeys themselves, they have quite a few tales to tell about how it was â€˜back in the dayâ€™. I would love to elaborate on the tales but most of them would be deemed inappropriate for a family-friendly website such as this. Actually, theyâ€™re probably too crude for even the most hardcore of the wwwâ€™s.
Thatâ€™s what the majority of the chat is about - sex. Iâ€™ve heard itâ€™s the same with football players, even in the top flight. But I suppose if you get together any group of fit, young males, fornication is going to be something they have in common and love to talk (brag?) about.
This is not to say the horses donâ€™t get a mention. They ride the beasts everyday and thereâ€™s not many who know the form better than Jimmy Quinn. Ask him about any horse and heâ€™ll have a word or two to say about it.
Things like this go on at the Wolverhamptons, Southwells and Baths of the world - at the bigger venues itâ€™s different gravy.
Speaking of gravy, food is something that varies wildly from course to course. Peckish at Wolves? Chicken nuggets and chips is all you can have. Starving at Goodwood? Take your pick from a tremendous buffet of cold and hot meats with fresh salad and fruit.
I prefer Goodwood.
As said, at the more prestigious events the atmosphere is unlike that of a bread-and-butter meeting. There are different faces for a start - those who mop up sellers and claimers canâ€™t be found in the Racing Post during Royal Ascot and the like. This is where the Frankies and Kinanes of the world come out to play. Sex is less of a topic to these established fellows and talking is more off the agenda altogether. Nerves? It's hard to tellÂ but if Mr Dettori has a Group 1 winner, the bubbly is popped open and the place comes alive.
Gallops Gossip: Prolific Lewes trainer Jim Best is looking to sell his yard and relocate to Lambourn. A sigh of relief from his current neighbours -Â Lewes relations are notoriouslyÂ sticky between handlers.
Ross will be back soon with another view from the professional side of racing.
Following on from yesterday's post, I thought I'd allow others to make their own judgments on the Grand National field, by uploading my Grand National analysis spreadsheet. It's in Excel 2007 format, and it should be convertable to earlier Excel versions. Whether it can be read by Open Office or Google Documents or whatever other spreadsheet reader software you might be using, I don't know.
STOP PRESS: Apparently it does work with Open Office, which you can download free here: Open Office
But, if you can open it, you'll get not just a lot of useful stuff for your own analysis, but also a little window on my race analysis world. No charge. 😉
Now then, Britain lost its most famous racing author this week, when Dick Francis passed away. I must concede that I've never read one of his novels, and I never will (quite apart from anything else, I don't have time for fiction). But I'm told they're mediocre at best, a comment that could not be applied to his riding career.
Francis rode 350 winners, and was champion jockey in the 1953-4 season. As such, it may be harsh that his most (in)famous moment was a bizarre quirk of nature. Reminding us that there's no such thing as a 'racing certainty', here's the full 1956 Grand National review from Pathe News.
It's well worth a watch to note the crowds, the size of the fences, and the absurdly brutal crashing falls: the Grand National as it used to be!