What’s It Really Like in the Jockey’s Weighing Room?

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 jockey’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 doesn’t extend as far as their female counterparts are concerned. If Hayley Turner needs to sweat off a few pounds, it’s done in a bikini.

Amongst a bustling weighing room of miniature men, there’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 lads’ equipment - cleaning, repairing and making sure they’re the correct weight. They also provide banter. Being former jockeys themselves, they have quite a few tales to tell about how it was ‘back in the day’. 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, they’re probably too crude for even the most hardcore of the www’s.

That’s what the majority of the chat is about - sex. I’ve heard it’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 don’t get a mention. They ride the beasts everyday and there’s not many who know the form better than Jimmy Quinn. Ask him about any horse and he’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 it’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.

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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 can’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 tell 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 - Lewes relations are notoriously 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. 😉

>>>Download the Grand National trends analysis spreadie here<<<


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!

Back soon,


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21 replies
  1. General says:

    nice link Matt but sadly its a zip file I cannot open. Any chance of an excel attachment?? Thanks

  2. Arthur says:

    Hi Matt,

    Just to let everyone know you can open the spreadsheet on openoffice 3.1.


    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks Arthur – that’s good news. For people who don’t have Excel or Open Office, you can download the latter free from http://download.openoffice.org/

      Paul, it’s not a zip file. It’s in .xlsx (Excel 2007) format.


  3. Jack Stanley Crompton says:

    Ah! Dear old Pathetic News! For once I was shouting on the winner, being an anti-royalist. Re Dick Francis as a writer: once you’de read one …. And did Dave Dick really say, “I was a terribly lucky winner. Anyone for tennis, darlings?” A different world!

  4. thomas says:

    Hi matt seems life revolves around totty man the hunter women the pray oops will wait for the rebuke as in real life women have the upper hand and the lower perswader. bril about life in jockey changing room. and pretty certain devon locke jumped a fence that was the other side of the rail or its shadow how unlucky keep up the good work thomas

  5. Mike Brennan says:

    Sorry Matt
    the excel link dose not work, and i don’t want open office.
    Any suggestions?

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Mick

      My only suggestion is that you try another computer to download it, as I know it works!


  6. Peter says:

    Sorry Matt
    The excel link dose not work for me either
    Can you try to save it as .xls format instead of .xlsx and it should be o.k. for everyone?
    Thanks Matt

  7. Roger says:

    I enjoyed the video Matt, it reminded me of my old Dad who was lucky enough to back the winner. He was never much of a form student and mostly just picked fancy names.
    Years later as a young man I would call on Saturdays and take his bets, usually a couple of 20p cross and 10 double’s. I would look at them and sometimes say “bloody hell Dad where have you got these from, they have no chance”. He would say “thanks for that son
    I always get a good winner when you say that” lol.
    I think it will be Nicholls year for the National, not too sure which one though.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Good stuff all!

      Arthur P, you’re a little naughty there. 😉

      Seriously, folks, I’m not a tech whizz and I hoped that some of you would be able to open the file. If you’re running a new version of Open Office or Excel 2007, you should be able to right click the file, save it locally and open it up.

      If you’re running Excel 2003, it should automatically convert for you.

      If you’re running anything else, I’m afraid I can’t help you.

      Of course, the above doesn’t take into account the multiple permutations of operating system, browser, firewall / anti-virus, geographic location, and technical skill level! :O


    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Glad to bring back memories Rog. As for Nicholls’ year, I’m not sure I agree. Not enough of his horses get round in chases for my liking, and his National record (excepting My Will last year, unfortunately for the hole in my pocket) is abominable with a lot of fancied runners.


  8. Arthur says:

    .xlsx is Office 2007 format. It’s 2010 now, folks.

    Isn’t there a fairly simple download available for those of you still running antiquated versions like 2003 or before? I seem to vaguely recall installing something that enabled me to cope with these “new-fangled” files on my last PC which I got rid of at least 2 years ago now.

    And apparently this new Windows 98 is really something…..

  9. JOHN USA says:


  10. broggsy says:

    Hi Matt..for excel 2003 to open the file you MUST save the original file as a fully compatable copy of the workbook with excel 97-2003. you have this option in the save as tab in excel 2007. The file can now be read in all formats of excel from 97 to present.

    keep up the good work!!!!! love your blogs and reviews.


  11. Ste M says:

    Hey guys when you click the link it should start the download without opening it in excel. Once the download is complete it will appear in your downloads folder (normally within the My Documents folder). You need to locate the downloaded file in this folder, right click on it and choose to ‘save as’. Then the ‘save as type’ needs to be changed to .xls

    Click Ok this should then save the file as GN.xls and can be used on previous versions of exel.

    Hope that makes sense!

    Thanks to you as well Matt, some really good work there and much appreciated. I tend to start my Grand National analysis around now as well and coming from Liverpool it always gives me an extra buzz when it falls into place. Good luck


    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks to the more technical members of the community for their ‘how to’ instructions. Hopefully those who would like to review the spreadie now can. 🙂


  12. Jon D. says:

    Thanks for giving us that full Grand National replay, Matt. I’ve seen Devon Loch’s famous ghost jump many times since the 1950s, but never seen the full newsreel coverage before.

    I loved the old Pathe News – much better than today’s pathetic efforts, hosted mostly by females with massive egos whose sole interest is how they look and how they can further aggrandise themselves. The camera shots were far better in the old days too. I didn’t know there was a Pathe news.com, will have a look at the website.

  13. karl says:

    Cannot believe you haven’t read Dick Francis. Utterly brilliant writer, His experience in the saddle make the stories come alive. I for one will miss his books.

  14. David Aston says:

    Please can you stop the sign up box from appearing everytime we click through from an e-mail?
    It’s a little annoying – sorry to be a nuisance

  15. chris marsland says:

    thoroughly enjoyable blog—- entertaining and even profitable at times——–many thanks for your efforts!!

  16. ron.goodall says:

    to matt
    i was 9 years old at the time and remember the race my late father
    backed devon locke he said the horse saw a shadow of a fence which was on the orther side and tried to jump it my mind goes back
    to willie carson in u.s.a.when he lost a race on a shadow of a winning
    post regards ron goodall

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