26 January 2022

Spencer hopes compromise can be reached in weights clash

26 January 2022

Jamie Spencer believes a compromise between the British Horseracing Authority and jockeys can be reached over the planned 2lb rise in weights set to be introduced in the spring.

The BHA announced on Tuesday that the current 3lb allowance introduced as a temporary Covid-19 measure back in June 2020 will be replaced by a permanent 2lb rise in the weights, with a further 3lb allowed for safety equipment and 1lb for Flat riders in winter to allow for extra warm clothing.

The decision has prompted fierce criticism from some in the weighing room who are unhappy to have the allowance effectively reduced by 1lb in light of the news in November that saunas would no longer be part of the weighing room facilities.

The 2lb rise was agreed by the Racing Group, which includes cross-industry representation, and the BHA underlined on Wednesday that the process “followed to implement these changes included consultation with jockeys, through multiple meetings with the Professional Jockeys Association”.

Jamie Spencer is one of the most experienced jockeys in the weighing room (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Archive)

Spencer, a senior member of the weighing room whose career has spanned more than 20 years, thinks the extra allowance has proved a huge plus for the health of riders.

He said: “The way I look at most things is, ‘the less said, easier mended’, so I generally don’t comment on things, but I do feel this hasn’t been thought out.

“In my mind, the weighing room was a lot happier place when jockeys had the 6lb. It doesn’t affect me probably as much as some other riders.

“I see them and they are not taking shortcuts. They are doing their level best and training every day to get to their weight and with the 3lb, it obviously made it a lot easier.”

I just think that if it's not broken, don't fix it – I just don't get why this has happened

Under the revised system the top weight in a Flat race will now be 10st 2lb, with Spencer insisting most horses would be unaffected by heavier imposts.

He added: “As regard for horse welfare, an extra 3lb, for example a horse carrying 9st 8lb versus carrying 9st 5lb, I don’t think that argument holds up very strong.

“Show me a horse in the morning carrying less than 10st. The riding-out equipment is a lot heavier in the morning.

“I just think that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it – I just don’t get why this has happened.

It is disappointing. I usually let things go along and never comment, but I do feel strongly about this

“It is disappointing. I usually let things go along and never comment, but I do feel strongly about this.

“You look at the weighing room. There are kids in there who are like giants coming towards me. The average height and weight must be going up.

“I just think the powers that be and the PJA need to sit down and thrash this out. Who in their right mind would have voted to give away 3lb?

“It is small things. You are more hydrated if you are 3lb heavier – it is better for you.

“I am sure a compromise can happen. I didn’t even know this was happening until the media did.

“It will affect me, but it will affect a lot of people more than me. I’m not saying it in a selfish way, I’m just saying it as an overall view, for the collective, that I hope they can come to a reasonable solution where everyone is happy.”

Former champion NH jockey Brian Hughes has had his say (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

Former champion jump jockey Brian Hughes admits the 2lb rise in weights will make little difference to him personally, but is worried about the welfare implications of increasing the top weight in National Hunt races to 12st.

He said: “I’ve not got a lot of thoughts on it, to be honest. I’m not the heaviest person in the world, so I’m the wrong person to ask.

“I do feel, however, the top-weight going up to 12st doesn’t make much sense to me. I can understand why the bottom weights are going up, I’ve no issue with that, but for me the top-weight should stay at 11st 12lb.

“It’s a welfare thing. Trainers don’t want horses carrying lots of weight.”

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