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Letter: Flat weights must be raised urgently.

Byline: Alex Mair

Alex Mair says action is needed to save some promising careers THE weights for Flat racing must rise. I firmly believe it is now a matter of urgency.

Plenty of research suggests horses would not suffer from a fairly small rise, but jockeys will continue to suffer if there isn't one.

Over the past year, I have been closely following the careers of a group of young jockeys who clearly struggle with their weight.

Thanks to the Racing Post jockeys' section, we can check up on a rider's lowest racing weight in the previous 12 months, and they seem to be going up and up.

Mark Savage has not ridden below 8st 10lb in the last year, Luke Fletcher 8st 9lb, David Nolan 8st 7lb and George Baker 8st 9lb.

Lee Enstone and Steve Donohoe have both had to endure long spells out of the saddle in recent times due to weight trouble, while there are several other instances of jockeys with apparent weight problems in Ireland.

What do all the jockeys I have so far mentioned have in common?

They are all relatively young (either apprentices or not long out of a claim), extremely talented, and could potentially be lost to the game, either through the jumping window, or altogether.

Some may argue this is the problem of individual jockeys, not racing as a whole, but I strongly disagree.

Fewer and fewer people are comfortably able to pull off racing weights, so that surely means there will be fewer and fewer jockeys coming through.

When I look at my school year (of 16-year-olds), I can count on no fingers the number of people who I would be certain could ride at 8st or less to pursue careers as jockeys.

Obviously, it is far from ideal to raise the weights again, but putting them up by between 2lb and 9lb would change most jock-eys' lives for the better. I accept that some jockeys who can pull off light weights may suffer in terms of rides, but surely, after a couple of years with, say, 8st 7lb as the minimum weight, few of the leading jockeys would bother to venture far below 9st.

Maybe I'm wrong, but surely some sort of trial, possibly through this all-weather season, with a higher bottom weight to see if the handicap system could cope, would be worth it. It could save several careers.

ALEX MAIR Harpenden Hertfordshire
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 30, 2005
Previous Article:Letter: Cheltenham price rises are obscene.
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