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Jockeys compensated for late non-runners

Richard Wayman 250 wideby Richard Wayman, ROA Chief Executive

Although there are some aspects of British racing, especially on the funding side, that put us a long way behind other countries, I don’t think too many would disagree that the standards of race-riding here compare favourably with just about every other racing nation.

At the top of their profession, Ryan Moore’s recent success in the Melbourne Cup drew praise from locals not renowned for their appreciation of foreign sportsmen, while over jumps the record-breaking heroics of AP McCoy impress even those who are otherwise unmoved by our game. Just like in other sports, those at the very top earn a fabulous living from their exploits, but what about jockeys who operate further down the scale, chasing around the country to ride average horses running for much more modest prize-money?

Earlier this year the Professional Jockeys Association produced an analysis of the average jockey’s finances. This showed the average Flat jockey generated just over £30,000 in riding fees and their share of prize-money. By the time you had deducted their not insignificant expenses headed by fuel costs, agent fees and valet payments, the annual salary was only around £20,000.

It is against this backdrop that the ROA has been working with the PJA and BHA to see whether the financial situation of those jockeys operating below the highest level can be improved without simply adding to the already considerable costs borne by racehorse owners. A number of areas for potential improvements have been identified but one issue remained a constant focus for the jockeys’ representatives.

Non-runners frustrate us all and, as owners are only too aware, they are an inevitability because the welfare of our horses will always come first. They are costly for owners and the same can be true for jockeys. As well as foregoing income if a rider chooses one mount over another only for their choice to be pulled out, they can also incur significant expense travelling to a race meeting only for their ride to be declared a non-runner.

It is difficult to think of other professions that wouldn’t apply some sort of call-out charge in similar situations and, indeed, in many other countries jockeys currently receive all or part of their riding fee in such circumstances.

Addressing these concerns is the reason behind the introduction of a new charge to owners to apply from the beginning of 2015. Under the Rules of Racing, a jockey will receive a payment from the owner for all non-runners advised to Weatherbys after 9am on the day of the race. The payment will be £47.32 on the Flat and £64.60 over Jumps, which equates to 40% of the respective riding fees.

An important point to stress is that based on the current numbers of non-runners, the total cost to owners of this new charge is very similar to an inflationary increase in the riding fee which would have otherwise been applied. The jockeys have agreed to waive a rise to the riding fee in 2015 which means, in total, the introduction of this payment will have a neutral financial impact on racehorse owners.

Being a jockey is a high risk and often relatively short career, and this new fee should provide some help to riders who are left out of pocket when an intended ride becomes a non-runner relatively late in the day. The ROA believes that addressing this issue whilst also safeguarding owners’ interests should be viewed as progress.

8 December 2014

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