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A day in the life of a jockeys agent, all weather racing and a wish for it to be “good”

Racing over the past week has being very steady, often only the one meeting and very often small fields. Now we are on the verge of a cold snap and with the winter conditions certain to disrupt the National Hunt racing (probably a bigger certainty than Rosie’s Lady (left), when winning her second race!) I’m sure we will have the BHA pushing extra fixture’s in here and there so that the bookmaker’s have some UK racing on their screens to go with their delight’s from the UAE, France, South Africa, Portman Park and Steepledowns!

Whilst talking about the weather and ground condition’s, we saw this week that our leader, Ron, had contacted the BHA regarding accurate ground descriptions. Well before moving on, I can tell you that during the flat season the clerk of the courses were desperate to have good in the description on raceday’s. Hence why there were so many changes to the description of the ground throughout the course of a day on occasions. One conversation went something like this:

Described ground – Good to Soft
Clerk: How is the ground out there?
Jockey: Heavy Sir, don’t know where you’ve found good to soft?
Clerk: Is there no good ground out there?
Jockey: None Sir.
Clerk: Are you sure there’s no good at all in it?

That was a regular occurance so I’m told, they were absolutely desperate to have some good in the description. Whether it was for safety reasons, I don’t know but one thing is for sure, it was of no help to the betting public!

It is obviously a good thing for the flat jockey’s that choose to stay on over here in the winter, instead of plying their trade somewhere warmer, but saying that it has being a difficult month for the majority of jockey’s unless you happen to be Luke Morris or Adam Kirby (who are getting the cream at the moment), or the likes of William Carson or Ian Mongan, who get a steady stream of rides that gives them a comfortable income each month. I know from experience and you guy’s will from reading Kirsty’s Post Racing blog, that it isn’t a life of Reilly that the jock’s lead. Often up at 4-00am to go and ride out, suffering the elements we are experiencing now, then spend three hours in a car to go to Wolverhampton, often to ride horses that may not have much chance and then jump back in the car and face the queue’s, maybe getting home for midnight. All that sometimes for one ride and one riding fee, which after fuel, valet and agent fee’s can mean they have earned £50 for a day’s work that has lasted 20 hour’s!

As I’ve mentioned already Luke Morris and Adam Kirby to some degree, get to pick and choose their rides as they are in high demand. It’s up to their agent to get them the best ride they can. All jockey’s have rides of their own whether it be for a particular owner or trainer and obviously that number can vary. That is why you may often see a particular rider’s name against a few horses in the Racing Post at entry stage. For those of you interested in how an agent work’s I thought I would give you an insight to a typical day for me.

I am usually awake for 6am, then I take a walk to the newsagent for a Racing Post and the daily papers. When I get back home I get sat in front of the computer, usually with a coffee and check off what rides are already booked for my rider’s. Then it is a case of checking through all the spare rides (runners with no jockey booked) and calling trainer’s and, in some cases, the owners to try and get on them. I offer all my jockey’s, with those that have previously ridden for the connections in question first. I have to be fair to all my rider’s so they are all offered and if a trainer wants one of my jockey’s it is up to him and his owner to decide who.

By around 9-15am the majority of the intended runners are jocked up, so I take the opportunity to get another coffee and maybe a bowl of cereal. If I’m lucky, the phone will ring while I’m eating it too, and usually that will be a trainer wanting a rider!
Throughout the morning, I will check the declaration tracking as this tells me how many horses are intended to run. It is useful as not only does it tell you how many are set to be declared but it also lets you know how many horses at the bottom end of the weights (with a ballot mark) are getting in. It is useful as for example, if you have a rider on a horse that has the number two ballot mark and coming up to 10-00am the last horse in is the one with the ballot mark seven, you know your jockey’s ride won’t get in the race so you can look elsewhere.

At 10-00am, the provisional list of declarations are processed and you can see what runner’s have no rider’s. It is around this time where trainer’s phones hit meltdown as all us agents try to get in touch to get on their horses.

This last’s until around 10-30am. Weatherby’s then publish their lists of final declarations. This includes the horses and jockey’s names, the weights and draw numbers. Also in the result of races dividing, all the alterations to the race times. This can obviously cause problems as a rider may be booked at two meetings and an altered race time can easily mean giving up a ride, it can also mean that you can pick up a late spare ride too! This can go on until 12noon, then it is a case of notifying my rider’s of their booked rides.

Then anytime between 12-35pm and 1-15pm the next batch of entries come through. It’s a case of going through them and seeing if any of my jockey’s usual rides are entered and jocking them up accordingly. Then it’s time to contact trainers regards any possible rides. As it is after lunch, more often than not trainer’s can be at the races, or working in their yard so it’s not the best of time to get hold of them. I will write up a list of possible rides for all of the team and then over the course of the next morning ring up for them.

It is a difficult role at times as there are more jockey’s now than ever. Every trainer seems to have an apprentice so unless an apprentice has shone, its very difficult promoting them. There aren’t the amount of rides there were years ago as field safety limits are so low, a top handicap at a big meeting would once have up to 40 runner’s and now the maximum field you will see in a big handicap is 30. The raising of the weight’s hasn’t helped the naturally light rider’s. Dominic Fox’s father, the late Richard Fox, would always be in high demand in the big handicap’s, as he could do the bottom weight’s of around 7 stone with great ease. Dominic is the same as his dad in that he could do the modern day minimum weight of 7-12 with ease and up until last year claim 3lbs off that too. But the increased weight limits and the smaller fields have taken away the need of specialist lightweight jockey’s in handicaps now.

It can be quite a tedious job at times, some trainer’s can be rude and obnoxious (I’ve only encountered this on 2-3 occasions and I was warned by fellow agent’s….and no, I can’t tell you who they are!), which really isn’t necessary. The most common line is “I’ll get back to you!”, which quite often they don’t but at least it’s more polite than the rude replies I’ve received!
When I get asked about the sport and how difficult it is getting rides I say how difficult it can be without having trainer’s backing you and then use this explanation about jockey’s. “If you could have a top of the range BMW for the same price as a Mini what would you choose?”

Then when I get the bemused look’s and get asked what car’s have to do with horseracing I explain that all senior jockey’s are the same price to owner’s and trainer’s, so whether you book a high profile jockey like Ryan Moore for your horse, or a journeyman jockey, you pay the same. I once had a fellow agent suggest to me that they should catergorise jockey’s into different price bracket’s. I don’t know what he’d had in his coffee that morning but in my opinion it still wouldn’t make any difference as to how many rides jockey’s would pick up, as the top jockey’s are all in good job’s or commanding decent retainer’s with their rides guaranteed in any case.

I hope that you have found that of interest, I have a website for the jockey’s and if you would like to take a look it can be found at www.thejockeysagent.moonfruit.co.uk

As we all know, the severe weather warning’s are in place and for the sake of the racing charities that you all support, I hope Wolverhampton goes ahead on Friday, with two of the club horses running with Hiddon Coin and Rosies Lady making a return to the track. Rosie is in there three pounds lower than before her new mark kicks in on Saturday, so here’s hoping David has found an opportunity for you all to get into the winner’s enclosure again. Obviously the weather disrupts homework for some trainer’s so at this time of year it is always best to tread carefully. I am a great fan of the all-weather as you know but I have to say that this winter has being a minefield for punter’s.

As with Rosie, HAB REEH 4.30pm Wolverhampton on Friday has a new mark kicking in on Saturday. Ruth Carr’s sprinter has being kept busy since winning an apprentice race under Gemma Tutty, finishing a close second earlier this week from a wide draw. Drawn in one here, if they get out well they could take some catching. Another couple I like on Friday are MAWAAKEF 3.10pm Lingfield andHOLDING FAST 5-00pm Wolverhampton, Mawaakef would be giving weight away to all if this was a handicap and the way he stayed on in the listed Quebec Stakes, over two furlongs shorter, this trip, in this company should suit. Holding Fast ran well here earlier in the week over further, having showed speed until collared late on this drop in trip should help him break his maiden tag against some poor opposition.

On Saturday I like one at Kempton, WEST LEAKE in the 3.30pm race is a proper all-weather horse having won at all the four current all-weather tracks. He was a good second behind another well handicapped horse last time and is in here off 57 having last won off 66. Paul Burgoyne is a shrewd operator and has a lovely training operation near Wincanton. Here’s hoping West Leake is another winner for him.

Things are picking up again next week, weather permitting that is! Of the team’s rides, LOWTHER goes again next Monday under Nathan Alison and he should go close again.

Have a good weekend and if you are going to Wolverhampton, have a great time and a safe journey.

All the best.

Mark

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