During a trial period starting in April that will cover the peak period of British summer racing on the flat, jockeys will only be allowed to ride at nine meetings every seven days, including day and evening programs. A week is considered to begin on a Saturday.
The changes were brought in after widespread concern within the British racing industry that the increased number of fixtures was leading to many jockeys pushing themselves too hard in order to secure as many mounts as possible. The exertions result in exhaustion, dehydration, possible long-term illness and dangerous traveling conditions.
A poll conducted by the JAGB last year found that 62% of flat jockeys were in favor of being limited to riding at one meeting per day. The British Horseracing Board was also concerned about the situation, and it was decided that some restrictions were needed to protect jockeys.
Kevin Darley, president of the JAGB, partnered more horses than any other jockey on his way to securing the 2000 flat jockeys’ championship in Britain. He feels that the restrictions are the way forward, yet not all jockeys share his view.
Seb Sanders, who finished seventh in the 2006 flat jockeys’ championship with 117 winners from 834 rides, rode 50 winners in July and August alone last year, riding at up to three tracks a day.
The 35-year-old is first jockey to Newmarket trainer Sir Mark Prescott -- who sends out the bulk of his runners over the summer months -- and remains firmly against the trial, viewing it as an unfair restriction of trade.
"I’m not happy about it, he said. "The simple fact is my main time of the year is June, July and August and it’s going to affect me a lot more than the others, but that’s not the point.
"The point is I’ve been doing this job for 17 years and somebody is trying to tell me when and where I can work. I don’t know about everybody else, but if you’re self-employed as we are it should be up to you and your discretion when and where you work."
With British summer racing involving both afternoon and evening fixtures, jockeys often ride at more than one meeting a day. In a busy week, there can be evening racing on six out of seven days as well as afternoon fixtures each day. Distances between Britain’s 59 racecourses are not far enough to stop travel between most of them and they usually stage six or seven-race programs.