This week sees the official re-launch of the Jockey Coaching Programme following the transfer of the management of the scheme from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to the British Racing School (BRS), in conjunction with the Northern Racing College.
The programme currently provides coaching and mentoring for 112 jockeys under the guidance of 19 qualified coaches across England, Scotland and Wales. Jockeys currently taking advantage of the programme include leading apprentices Oisin Murphy, Louis Steward and Shelley Birkett, and up and coming conditional jockeys Conor Shoemark, Ryan Hatch, Lucy Alexander and Gavin Sheehan.
Introduced by BHA as a pilot scheme in September 2011, it was agreed at the close of 2013 that the initiative should become a permanent feature of the British Racing industry's Recruitment, Training and Education programme. In line with the BHA's strategy in this area, the decision was made to outsource the provision of training to established providers with a view to delivering a more integrated and cost effective approach. This led to the transfer to the British Racing School, who will manage the programme, in conjunction with the Northern Racing College.
Under the optional scheme, jockeys are assigned a coach on completion of their Apprentice or Conditional Licence Course at either the BRS or Northern Racing College. The coach then provides advice and assistance to the apprentice or conditional, including practical help with regard to race riding and tactics, theory, fitness and all aspects of building a career as a professional jockey.
All the coaches are UKCC Level 3 qualified and are either former or current jockeys. Coaches include Classic-winning riders John Reid, Philip Robinson and Kevin Darley, as well as former leading National Hunt jockeys Peter Scudamore, Mick Fitzgerald and Steve Smith-Eccles.
Andrew Thornton, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Cool Dawn in 1998 and is now one of the 14 jump jockeys to have qualified as a coach, said:
“As coaches, we’re not just there to help the young jockeys with their riding but also to pass on experience of problems we may have encountered during our careers as jockeys. Whether it’s paying your tax bill or managing your weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, these are all things we’ve been through, but in our day there was nobody really to help with this. The programme is a mentoring service as much as anything and is a great facility.”
Oisin Murphy, leading apprentice jockey said:
“I have been coached by John Reid and he has been a great help to me and all the apprentices at Andrew Balding’s. I call him for advice, he is always very thought-provoking and helpful and has been very beneficial to my riding development.”
The Programme also includes support for Apprentice and Conditional jockeys riding in the BHA Racing Excellence Series. This consists of seven series, made up of 74 races for jockeys of different levels of experience across Flat, All-Weather and Jump codes. Each race is attended by a Jockey Coach who will walk the course with the riders and carry out a video review with the riders following the race.
Rory MacDonald, Chief Executive of the BRS said:
“We are delighted to have been handed the responsibility for running the Jockey Coaching Programme. It’s very important that young jockeys have access to such tuition and advice in the early stages of their careers and with a first-class team of coaches assembled, we are able to offer them a leg up along the way.
“As an established Centre of Excellence for training in the horseracing world, the BRS is ideally placed to deliver this valuable service in an area where the sport had previously fallen short until the introduction by BHA of the programme.
“We are looking forward to continuing to guide and help the careers of apprentices and conditionals, many of whom are our graduates.”
The transfer to BRS also enables the success of the programme to be more closely assessed, consideration will also be given to methods of improving the initiative, such as ensuring the panel of coaches work more effectively by using a centralised recording system, reviewing the geographical spread of the jockey coaches and introducing regional simulators and fitness workshops.
Paul Bittar, Chief Executive of BHA, said
“The Jockey Coaching Programme is an important initiative and I am delighted that with support from the Levy Board we have secured the funding to make the scheme permanent.
“With BRS, together with the Northern Racing College, managing the programme on the sport’s behalf, we look forward to the Jockey Coaching Programme aiding the development of the next generation of champion jockeys.”
For further information, please contact Zinnia Welby at The British Racing School: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01638 669039.