Before a jockey comes out to ride a horse in a racing event there are many things happening behind the scenes. One of these is a weigh-in. Each jockey must have their weight recorded before the beginning of the race day. This daily ritual is actually a very important part of horse racing, and it also has an impact on how bettors handicap races. Have you ever wondered why they weigh jockeys before the race? Here’s the answer.
The Reason for Weighing Jockeys
Jockeys must have their weight checked for a very simple reason: the rules of racing require that bettors know how much weight each horse is carrying during a race. Some believe that weight plays a significant role in how well a horse will perform, especially over a long distance.
When a horse is entered in a race, the animal is assigned a weight to carry. This weight is usually mandated by the Jockey Club and is standard across all race tracks. The amount of weight carried depends upon the type of race the horse is entered in.
In claiming races all horses typically are assigned the same weight. There are exceptions when a horse might be given a weight reduction compared to its competitors because of a specific circumstance. For example, a filly running against males is permitted a small weight allowance. A horse ridden by an apprentice jockey is also given a reduced weight. This is done to promote fair competition.
In an allowance race there are weight allowances given for meeting certain conditions. A horse might be allowed two pounds off for not having won a race in the current year. In stakes races, all horses generally carry the same weight. The allowance for fillies still applies in this case.
A handicap race is one in which each horse in the race has been assigned a weight by the track handicapper. This is also done to try and put the horses in the event on a level playing field. There have been cases where legendary horses carried as much as ten pounds more than their rivals.
Once the weights have been assigned, they are published in the past performances that bettors use to handicap a race. If something happens that causes the weight to change, the public must be made aware of this change before the race. The only way a weight assignment can change is if a jockey shows up too heavy or too light. This is why some horses will be announced as “two pounds over” by the track announcer before a race begins.
A jockey is weighed before the races begin so that his or her weight can be recorded for the racing officials. This is the only way that officials can determine if a horse is carrying more weight than it was intended to carry.
The Clerk of Scales Weighs the Jockeys
Inside the jockey’s room there is a racing official with the title Clerk of Scales. It is this person’s responsibility to make sure that all jockeys weigh and have their weight recorded before the races begin. The Clerk of Scales is technically supposed to visually verify the weight on the scales when the jockey weighs to prevent any cheating. On smaller circuits this doesn’t always happen. Jockeys are often trusted to inform the Clerk of Scales of their correct weight.
Many jockey’s rooms have the scales placed directly in front of the Clerk of Scales’ desk. This makes it possible for the official to verify that the weights are correct. When all jockeys have weighed, the Clerk of Scales will relay the information to the track stewards. These officials will then notify the track announcer of all overweight amounts on the race card.
What Happens When a Jockey is Overweight?
You might think that a jockey that is overweight will not be allowed to ride in the races that day. This is not the case. The jockey can still ride as long as the public has been made aware of the difference. Jockeys do not like being overweight because it can get them in trouble with trainers. Trainers do not like the idea of their horses carrying more weight than expected.
A trainer could choose to remove the jockey from the horse and use another rider that meets the required weight. This almost never happens. The reason for this is that it is simply too hard for trainers to find a capable rider. Also, the horse has generally been training with the jockey in question. But, trainers may be hesitant to let a jockey ride the horse for them again in another race.
Do Jockeys Weigh After a Race?
In the Winner’s Circle of every race track there is a scale identical to the one used in the jockey’s room. As soon as a race is complete, a jockey must step on the scale to have their weight verified once again. What is the reason for this second weigh-in?
Like any athlete, a jockey can actually lose weight during competition. Sometimes the jockey will actually be lighter at the end of a race than they were at the beginning. This can affect the weight at which they are supposed to ride other races on the card.
A Funny Jockey Weight Story
The late Lucy Burch was known for being a firebrand on the racetrack. A fierce competitor with a vivacious personality, Burch lost her life in a car accident in 2007.
Lucy Burch was known to hate weighing herself. She frequently struggled with weight issues and was often three of four pounds overweight. This became a source of great frustration for her jockey agent. One morning during training hours he demanded that Burch accompany him to the female jockey’s room and weigh. Burch was not amused.
The agent informed Burch that he would no longer represent her if she refused to weigh. The jockey stormed into the jockeys room with only her agent in tow. Once the door was closed, Burch removed every stitch of clothing before stepping on the scale. She turned to the flustered agent with her hands on hips and said, “What time do you want me to weigh tomorrow?”
The agent never asked her to weigh again.
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