A Weighty Question

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There is a contentious debate going on in Victoria at the moment about whether to retain the minimum weight in races at 56kg when the COVID-19 crisis ends, or if it should be dropped back to 54.

It’s a no-brainer isn’t it?

A jockey has to strip 4% of their body weight off to get down from 56 to 54.

The average horse has to carry an extra .03% in weight on average if they don’t.

It doesn’t hurt the horse.

Phar Lap carried 68 plenty of times without a worry, and Red Rum toted 74kg over 7.2 kilometres and Beechers Brook in the Grand National and won it on his ear. Two kilos more on top only worries a racehorse if its opponents don’t go up the same amount extra too, weights and measures being the fundamental basis of the handicapping system that underpins the whole game.

Other than because of stupid conservative traditions about the weight scale, and an ill-founded notion of comparison of race times, who other than someone with a huge self-interest (like a jockey riding comfortably at 51) or a dickhead really cares if horse A lugs 61kg, and horse B carts 56.5?

No-one.

Who cares if a jockey wasted himself for years and screws up his internal organs doing it, and then in a fit of silent despair gets on the jungle juice and shoots themselves in the head when they’re too heavy to compete at 1756 AD weights anymore, and find themselves cast out of the game and into the gutter?

I do, and so do a whole lot of others.

This is a stupid argument, and I reckon that those who oppose an increase to the weight scale are stupid too.

Here are some facts.

The Weight For Age Scale which we still apply in our best races today was set in 1850, and revised in 1866.

Back then, the average height of a bloke in a racing nation like, say, Germany was 168 inches.

By 1980 the average height of Huns had risen to 181cm, an increase of almost 8 percent.

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If the WFA scale had been adjusted to match the growth of humans as a result of progress and evolution, then the weights in the Cox Plate would look roughly  like this:

5YO Entire or Gelding – 62.5kg

5YO Mare – 60.0kg

4YO Entire or Gelding – 62.0kg

4Yo Mare – 59.5kg

3YO Colt or Gelding – 53.0kg

3YO Filly – 50.5kg

What on earth is the problem with that?

There are none, other than arguments about preserving the old days, and a latent desire to throw great riders like Aiden Holt, Nick Ryan, Nicholas Hall, Roy Higgins and a million others on the scrap heap, and consign bigger framed blokes like Ric McMahon who yearn to compete in the saddle to a life ruined so far by a terrible drug addiction that they picked up when they were desperate to lose 2 kilos to get a half a book of rides.

What the hell?

The racing authorities bang on forever about animal cruelty, and all power to them and good on them too.

But what about the human beings in racing?

What about the jockeys?

Is it going to take a multi-million dollar lawsuit from the widow of a rider who left school at 14 as a 48 kilo apprentice, but by age 32 couldn’t get down past 63kg, and ended up swinging herself from a tree rather than face a life excluded from doing what they loved and did best, which was riding 550 kilogram beasts at top speed?

Are we insane?

Or just totally heartless, and blinded by inane beliefs?

If a 120 kilo computer nerd walks into an interview for a public service job and gets knocked back because they are too fat, they can sue their once prospective employer for squillions for discrimination.

Yet if a 58kg jock can’r get down to 56kg they’re out of a job, and there ain’t a damn thing in the world that they can do it about it other than hand around like seagulls waiting for another drip fed ride on a topweight, or give up and go and push trolleys at Woolies, like so many of those that came before them ended up doing just like them.

As I said earlier, this is just crazy.

Wake up to the modern reality that humans get bigger every decade, and lift the scales to match it.

There is no good reason in the world why we shouldn’t.

But is 6-5 against that we ever will.

Crazy it is, just plain crazy.

Lift the minimum, and do it now.

Let’s save a few unduly depressed jockeys lives. before they are lost forever.

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