FÁS has been accused of dashing the dreams of 32 young apprentice jockeys after their training course was cancelled without notice.
The state training agency said last week it would not release annual funding of €350,000 for the latest intake of trainees to the course which has been run at the Curragh for the last 33 years.
The youngsters, aged 15-18, were selected from over 100 candidates at a week-long assessment camp in July and were expecting to begin classes – a combination of schoolwork and jockey training – at the live-in facility run by the Racing Academy and Centre of Education (RACE) in mid-August, but the start date was postponed for a month. They were then informed by RACE last Thursday that the course would not be going ahead this year, but got no clear explanation as to why.
In a statement yesterday Fás said only that it had “concerns” about the course.
“A monitoring visit by a Fás official raised concerns regarding the residential Trainee Jockey Course delivered by RACE. Fás is currently reviewing funding for RACE and no decision has as yet been made on the matter.”
James Murphy from Cork city, whose nephew was due to start the course this month, said the teenager was gutted.
“He has been riding since he was four and has been helping out at stables since he was 11. Horses are everything to him and now he’s just been cast aside and no one will explain why.”
A meeting between Fás, RACE and Horse Racing Ireland, which invests in the course, will take place this Thursday to discuss the issue and RACE said it hoped to resume the course next year when the young people selected in July would be eligible to apply again.
Mr Murphy said it was unfair to expect them to compete for places again and said many of the young people’s lives had been thrown into disarray.
“They’d left school and now they’ve had to try and get their places back and get books and uniforms at the last minute. Some won’t go back to school and some will be too old next year to apply. It’s outrageous. Their dreams are gone.”
The course has produced champion jockeys such as Johnny Murtagh, Conor O’Dwyer and rising star, Cathy Gannon.
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