It seems the next generation of jockeys may be losing the battle of the bulge.
Long renowned for their ability to exist on meagre diets, that would cause torment for the average person, it seems young wannabe pilots are suffering as a result of the fact that humans are growing to be bigger, stronger and heavier.
Figures released yesterday in the Turf Club’s 2011 Integrity Racing Statistics show a decrease across the board in the number of riders being licensed, with all categories dipping to their lowest levels in years.
The number of National Hunt licences fell by 4.6%, flat licences by 11%, apprentice licences by 5% and qualified riders licences by 7%. The number of apprentices being indentured for the first time decreased by 8%.
“The number of apprentices licensed is 20% lower than the peak in 2008 and while the economy isn’t helping there are also difficulties in recruiting enough apprentices who are light enough to become riders,” said Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan.
“The weight issue is highlighted by the increase in the average weight of flat apprentices who attended the continuous professional development course at RACE in the past two years which is now 8 stone 7 pounds.”
Egan also expressed concerns at the overall fall in the quantity of licenses issues and stated that the figures were indicative of the problems faced by an industry where the number of jockeys and trainers licensed in most categories is now at 2004 levels or lower.
The latest statistics cover a wide range of other areas, including stewards’ enquiries, appeals, drug/alcohol testing of riders, drug testing of horses, licenses issued, non-runners, medical statistics, handicap ratings and off-times.
Among the most significant findings was that the Appeals Body and the Referrals Committee had their busiest year ever in 2011 after dealing with 61 cases. This represented a 22% increase over 2010 and a 126% increase over the 2009 figures.
The Appeals Body dealt with 22 cases, six of which were chaired by an independent chairman. 54% of appeals were successful.
There was a 29% increase in the number of whip enquiries due to tighter policing of whip rules.
108 riders were drug tested with one sample confirmed as positive, while alcohol breath testing of riders was carried out on 839 riders at 16 meetings. All of the tests were negative.
Almost 3,000 horses were tested for prohibited substances and there were seven positive results after the highest number of tests carried out in recent years. All winners are routinely tested in addition to a number of other horses being randomly selected for sampling.
In relation to the drug testing of horses, Egan said the Turf Club was “disappointed with the results as many of the positives found were avoidable. A positive result is expensive for everybody connected with the horse.
“In addition to a trainer being fined and losing his share of prizemoney, the owner and jockey will also forfeit any prizemoney won.”
He confirmed the Turf Club regards this whole area as critical in ensuring the integrity of Irish racing continues to conform to the highest standards. He said there are plans to increase the level of testing in 2012.
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