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PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
THE BHA on Wednesday announced a major overhaul of the way new jockeys are licensed and trained after recognising that too many riders never develop successful careers.
Under a more rigorous regime all applicants for the apprentice or conditional jockey course will only be accepted if they pass a pre-licence assessment, the length of the course will be doubled to ten days and there will be continuity training once they are riding as claimers.
The purpose of the change, which will be introduced from April 1, is to ensure jockeys are more highly skilled early in their career and better equipped physically and mentally to develop into elite professionals in a sport where 30 per cent of licensing course attendees do not ride a winner and 88 per cent do not ride out their claim.
The BHA said “racing is spending considerable resource training individuals who may not be successful. Too many jockeys also mean reduced opportunities for riders who might make the grade”.
The new strategy is the result of more than three years’ work in which the Professional Jockeys Association, National Trainers’ Federation and Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme have been actively involved.
Their review concluded that more rigorous entry criteria was necessary for aspiring jockeys, and that the number of training places be restricted in order to introduce an element of competition and ensure that the most suitable applicants entered the process on a consistent basis.
Pre-licence assessment will be held eight times a year at the British Racing School and Northern Racing College when applicants will undergo a technical skills test, fitness test and short questionnaire about the racing industry to determine their suitability. There will be 24 places available this year and 40 next year.
Longer courses will include not just technical and physical training but enhanced sessions on nutrition, personal development and lifestyle skills as well as media training and an introduction on the structure of the racing industry.
The increased cost of the courses will be met from a percentage of jockeys’ riding fees and a Levy Board grant.
Speaking on Wednesday, BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: “The changes announced today ensure that our jockeys will have access to significantly enhanced technical, personal and professional training. A more efficient and extensive assessment process can help aspiring jockeys who have a genuine chance of success to receive the first class levels of support and guidance they require.
“One of our key strategic objectives is to prioritise the welfare of our human and equine athletes and these changes show we are clearly focussed on investing in and looking after our people, as well as our horses.
“We are fully aware of the impact these changes are likely to have on horsemen and thank the trainers for their understanding. We will continue to have an open dialogue with the National Trainers Federation and their members as these changes come into effect.”
PJA chief executive Paul Struthers said: “These changes are the result of a significant amount of work over the last three years and a real collaborative approach. This new, enhanced selection and delivery structure will provide our young jockeys with the necessary training which, when combined with the additional advice and support of JETS, the BHA Jockey Coaches, the PJA and the IJF, will give them the best possible chance to have successful careers and lives both in and out of the saddle.”
NTF president Seamus Mullins said the inconvenience caused to trainers by losing young jockeys to extra training would be rewarded by their better riding and improved life skills.
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