‘Every pound makes a difference’: changes to jockeys’ minimum racing weights confirmed

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  • An increase to minimum jockey weights in racing will go ahead as planned – with the addition of an increase in the body protector allowance.

    H&H has reported that the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) had announced an increase of 2lb for most race categories at the start of the Flat and jumps seasons (news, 10 February). This was to replace the 3lb Covid allowance, brought in when racing resumed after the first lockdown to support jockeys when saunas were closed.

    The move was met with concerns from jockeys that the change could be detrimental to their mental health and wellbeing, with fears some jockeys would struggle to make the weight – and could take extreme measures to do so. Following this, the BHA entered into discussions with a number of jockeys, the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) and the National Trainers Federation (NTF) on the matter.

    On 7 March, the BHA confirmed the Covid allowance would be replaced with an across-the-board 2lb rise, but in addition, the 3lb back protector allowance would increase to 4lb – meaning horses will continue to carry the same weights since the Covid allowance was introduced.

    The BHA said the weights published in racecards will increase by 2lb, “providing the public with more accurate information about the weights being carried by the horses”.

    BHA chief operating officer Richard Wayman said the discussions had allowed the BHA to consider the concerns raised, which had not featured as part of the initial consultation.

    “During these discussions, riders have stressed the psychological benefits that the Covid allowance provided in terms of allowing them to manage the natural fluctuations in their body weight day to day. Many have stated retaining at least some of this flexibility is as important for their wellbeing as any rise in the weights,” he said.

    “The welfare of our riders is very much a key priority, and we will continue to work with the PJA and its members to support the wellbeing of jockeys. Upgrades to weighing rooms as part of a long-term programme of improvement to modernise facilities across British racecourses have already been announced and the issue of race weights will remain under regular review.”

    Flat jockey Ross Coakley told H&H the additional 1lb for the safety allowance felt like a “compromise”.

    “From a rider’s point of view when you’re working on such fine margins, every pound makes a substantial difference,” he said, but added it was a complicated topic.

    PJA national hunt president and jump jockey David Bass said he would have preferred to keep the full [Covid] allowance, owing to the “positive impact” on jockeys’ wellbeing, but said he was pleased that part of the allowance would remain.

    An NTF spokesman said any discussion about the replacement of the Covid allowance was going to be “difficult”.

    “While we are of the view that some reflection is needed on the issues that caused the consultation process to fail in the first instance, despite seemingly being fully adhered to, we are accepting of the outcome reached,” he said.

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