Horse racing is a very popular sport in the United Kingdom, but with the exception of a few jockeys, such as Frankie Dettori and (recently retired) Tony McCoy, most of the attention is usually on the animals themselves.
Few outsiders realise the strict diet and fitness regimes that jockeys put themselves through just to have the opportunity to get into the sport, let alone get to the top. The level of dedication these athletes put in is something to be admired.
You can say goodbye to late nights too as jockeys get up before 6 am in order to train with the horses and get them ready for race day. The likes of Ruby Walsh and Sam Twiston-Davies will know all about this.
Riding half a tonne of flesh which is racing at 40mph requires great strength to hold your horse and guide it to victory. A well-balanced and healthy body is simply a must.
Race fitness for jockeys required building key muscles: these are the core, lower body and legs. Upper body strength should not be ignored as it’s crucial to controlling the horse itself. Discipline is one word you can associate with this sport.
Jockeys can regularly be doing bleep tests, squats, standing on wobble cushions, sit-ups and even the dreaded plank. These are to try replicate the crouched position jockeys take up when riding. And of course, many jockeys will train on a life-size, electric horse simulating the rhythm that they will experience during races.
Aside from the exercises, a healthy diet is key to maintaining a jockey’s weight. Although there is a minimum weight of 8 stone, the maximum is 10, and most jockeys aim for the lighter weight in order to give their horse a better chance to win.
This weekend arguably the most famous race in the horse racing calendar otherwise known as the Grand National takes place at the Aintree Racecourse. Firstly run in 1839, the prize fund for this year’s event will be more than £1 million.
Prominent in British culture, the Grand National is popular amongst many who do not normally follow or bet on horse racing. The television audience is expected to be more than 600,000 worldwide.
Total Recall is the current 10/1 favourite according to the 2018 Grand National odds with Betfair. The Irish horse won at Leopardstown in February this year but failed to finish in his race at Cheltenham where he had been a 14/1 outsider. David Mullins will be the rider of Total Recall in the Grand National on Saturday, he usually weighs in at around 10 stone.
Over the past 70 years, the pre-race favourite has only won on nine occasions, the last occasion was when Tony McCoy, riding Don't Push It, was victorious in 2010 as the 10/1 joint-favourite. So you can expect the next favourites in line, according to the bookmakers, Anibale Fly, Blaklion and Tiger Roll, to challenge Total Recall at this weekend’s famous race. In fact, with the weather conditions expected to be bad, it’s likely to make for an unpredictable race that could throw up a winner with long odds.
The casual punters may fancy a horse like Ucello Conti at 20/1 or The Dutchman at 33/1 instead. With more than 30,000 spectators in attendance, many will go to the Tote to place their bet at the event, without knowing that Grand National betting from Betfair actually provides better odds. With their betting exchange you can even cash out in-play to lock in a profit or trade pre-race if you back high and the odds drop before 17:15 on Saturday when the race starts.
Back to becoming a jockey, and the training regime involved. Before all the exercise and diet, a Level 2 Diploma Apprenticeship is actually required – offered by the British Racing School.
The school requires that any aspiring jockey attend an interview and undergoes a physical test before they will even be considered for the course. The course is available for those who are between 16-22 years old..
Students get to learn how to ride a racehorse and the day-to-day work that is required to look after the animals. This includes daily feeding, grooming and mucking out for 2-3 horses.
Once the Diploma apprenticeship has been completed, the wannabe jockeys have to decide between going for the apprentice or conditional licence. These require a two-week course that needs to be completed to a satisfactory standard. The apprentice licence is for those wanting to ride in flat races, whilst the conditional licence is those looking to get into jump racing.
Jump racing requires jockeys to frequently visit medical staff to check on bruising and broken bruises that the sport will inevitably give them.
Still thinking about becoming a jockey? It’s not a career for the faint-hearted but for the professionals, it’s a sport they love and can often be paid well for.