Rookie jockeys getting too big
GLORY in the Grand National is the dream of many a young horse lover.But it seems victory in the Britain's biggest race, or its flat racing counterparts like the Derby and Newmarket's 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, could be a thing of the past for Britain's home-grown would-be jockeys.
GLORY in the Grand National is the dream of many a young horse lover.
But it seems victory in the Britain's biggest race, or its flat racing counterparts like the Derby and Newmarket's 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, could be a thing of the past for Britain's home-grown would-be jockeys.
Trainers at the headquarters of British racing are facing up to the fact that today's youngsters are just too big. They are well fed from an early age and most pass the six stone perfect weight long before their teens.
Now workers from India and Pakistan look set to be drafted into Newmarket to help ease shortages of riders in the industry caused because keen young horsemen and women are far bigger than they were.
Former careers officer Ashan Mohammed, who lives in Fordham Road, Newmarket, has launched a new recruitment agency aimed at giving the town's trainers the opportunity to fill staff vacancies using labour from overseas.
However, Mr Mohammed insisted the idea was not to provide the industry with a pool of cheap workers.
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He said: "We only deal with trainers who pay rates agreed by the Stable Lads' Association (SLA) and in the future we would like to work more closely with the SLA and the National Trainers' Federation.
"There is a shortage of skilled riders in the racing industry and trainers are finding it increasingly difficult to find staff – one reason being that people are much bigger now than they used to be."
Top Newmarket trainer, Clive Brittain, backed the initiative. He said he had a constant struggle to find riders.
"It's a fact of life that boys and girls coming to the British Racing School in the town are all too often too big before they get to 16 or 17. The problem seems to be that they are just too well fed and looked after.
"You just don't seem to get the little lads and girls you used to and finding the right staff is always a problem these days. They are either not coming forward because they know they're too big or they get to the racing school and are vetted for being too big.
"The ideal weight is eight stone – that's the cut off – but there aren't many of that weight around."
Mr Brittain said he was only five-and-a-half stone when he won his place as an apprentice jockey and he was considered "on the heavy side".
"It's going back a good few years but the ideal weight was considered to be four-and-a-half stone. Beyond six you were very lucky to get in."
He believes there are dozens of jobs for riders from places like India and Pakistan and said if they are brought in the jobs will be there for them.
Mr Mohammed's agency, Kings UK Ltd, recruits only riders who are recognised by official race clubs in both India and Pakistan. The firm has already placed staff with former Newmarket trainer John Gosden, who is based at Manton.
He said his agency works closely with the Home Office, which has to issue work permits for overseas workers.
"The permits issued are variable and usually for between one and five years. Their issue is very much linked to the correct rates of pay being agreed."
Mr Mohammed said he was also keen to help any British riders who were looking for jobs
In future the agency could be looking to bring over riders in from other countries, including Brazil.