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How Jockeys Stay in Shape for Horse Racing

Enda McElhinney provides an insight as to how jockeys maintain their fitness and weight.

Jockeys in horse racing live by some of the toughest lifestyle and training regimes across any sport. The lightweight riders have to stay in full control of their weight. Otherwise, they will be too heavy for their ride which could jeopardise their future in the sport. In national hunt racing, jockeys are required to jump over hurdles or fences with their horse. Often they will pick up injuries which rule them out of the sport for a period of time - but even during their rehabilitation, they must keep their weight down otherwise they can delay their return to action.

The two biggest races on the national hunt calendar are the Cheltenham Gold and the Grand National where Rule the World was successful back in April 2016. Here is a look at how the best jockeys will prepare and stay in great shape for these prestigious races.

A Disciplined Diet

The right diet is crucial for all jockeys in horse racing but even more important for those who will line up at Cheltenham Festival in March in what is the biggest week of the year in the sport. If they eat too much they could miss their ride at the meeting. Tom Scudamore, for example, is scheduled to partner Thistlecrack who is the favourite in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup betting – pick your horse and place a bet if you are having a punt in the race. Scudamore will be preparing for this race all year therefore to miss out because he has eaten too much would be devastating for the leading national hunt jockey.

In order to stay in control of their weight throughout a race day, jockeys will consume something really light like a piece of toast and a cup of tea. At the end of their rides, they usually eat some fish and vegetables but what is really important is that they eat no later than 7pm otherwise they could struggle to make the weight required for the following day.

Training

Jockeys tend to wake up around 5am each morning where they have a long day ahead of them. They will usually start with 3- or 4-mile run. This can often help them shed the one or two pounds they need to lose before the afternoon when they arrive at a racecourse.

Although they have to stay light, jockeys do need to spend a lot of time in the gym working on their core strength. In a close finish, jockeys will really earn their riding fee when they have to push their horse out to the line.

This can often be the difference between winning and losing as we saw in the Grade One Fighting Fifth Hurdle this season at Newcastle where a strong drive from jockey Harry Cobden helped Irving score by the margin of a nose ahead of Apple's Jade.

At the Cheltenham Festival there is some big prize money to be won. Never before was the prize money more in 2016 as Cue Card was on course to win a £1 million bonus for his connections as he just needed to be successful in the Gold Cup to complete the Chase Triple Crown. Sadly he and jockey Paddy Brennan came down four fences from home in the race won by Don Cossack – if you want to know more on Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2016 - click here.

Although we are months away from the next Cheltenham Festival, jockeys, trainers and owners will already be planning for the meeting in March. They will try to ensure their horses are in prime condition for what is the biggest week in the sport.

Love of the Sport Keeps Jockeys Motivated

Although jockeys do have to make a lot of sacrifices to stay in control of their weight, it is the love of their sport that keeps them going. Riding winners is their reward and success on big race days can see them earn some valuable prize money which helps them keep going.


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work then the reference for this page is:

  • McELHINNEY, E. (2016) How Jockeys Stay in Shape for Horse Racing [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article218.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Enda McElhinney is a sport enthusiast, with a passion for Horse Racing. Away from the racetrack, Enda enjoys researching the sport science behind racing and the training regimes that exist within the sport.

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