THE minimum riding weight for jockeys in Tasmania has been increased to 54 kilograms as part of a national trend that is aimed at lowering the impact on riders who struggle to make the present minimum of 53kg.
Many jockeys risk injury and long term health issues due to the wasting required to compete under the current scale.
While jockeys’ health is the prime consideration for the increase, the move will also provide additional benefits to the industry.
The increase has the potential to increase the longevity of a rider’s career and give owners and trainers more options at the lower end of the weight scale.
Tasracing, the industry’s governing body, has approved the increase for handicap races in Tasmania after consultation with all sectors of the industry and it will be effective as of 1 October 2010.
It is hoped that the move will also assist in easing the jockey shortage in Tasmania and it also is expected to attract new riders to the state.
There will also be benefits for wagering as many riders should be able to make the published weight.
In the 2009/10 season, jockeys were unable to make the published weight 349 times, sometimes claiming up to 1.5kg overweight, while apprentices were often unable to take their full claim on 402 occasions.
Creating a framework that gives riders every opportunity to make the set weight will improve the consistency of the Tasracing product and therefore increase its appeal to interstate and international markets.
Associated with the increase in the minimum weight is a 1kg increase in the minimum top-weight at the declaration of weights to 59kg.
This maintains the 5kg weight spread, which will preserve the competitiveness of handicap races and help drive turnover by ensuring each race contains as many winning chances as possible.
Victoria has applied the 59kg minimum top-weight for all races since 1 August 2009, albeit off a 53kg minimum. Racing NSW will also implement a 59kg minimum top-weight (54kg minimum weight) for country racing effective 1 November 2010.
In Tasmania, the 58kg minimum top-weight will be retained for two year old handicaps.
Approximately 40% of Tasmanian races are set weights events and will not be impacted by the weight adjustment; however, in the early part of the season, 3YO fillies may be weighted at under 54kg in open maiden races.
The Hobart and Launceston Cups will retain the 53kg minimum weight as they are handicapped in accordance with Victorian metropolitan open handicap guidelines.
Other feature handicap races also may be included in this category at the discretion of Tasracing in consultation with Racing Victoria handicappers.