Accident waiting to happen: Fatigued jockeys burning the candle at both ends
Champion hoops Damien Oliver and Dwayne Dunn insist change is desperately needed as the Victorian Jockeys’ Association agree they have never seen as many jockeys so exhausted from a relentless day-twilight-night racing workload.
VJA boss Matt Hyland says he can’t understand the purpose of night meetings finishing so late – for instance the last of 10 races at Moonee Valley last Friday was run at 10pm.
And that was after night racing at Pakenham the previous night.
Combined with a gruelling daily toll of trackwork, jumpouts and trials, Hyland says he can see an ever-increasing fatigue in the eyes of jockeys when he walks into the room on raceday.
And so too can Melbourne Cup winning jockey Oliver.
Oliver experienced it himself driving home from a late finish riding at Pakenham recently.
“I actually found myself driving home from the races last Thursday night at Pakenham, I was fatiguing and I was thinking if I don’t stay aware of myself here I could find myself running off the road,” Oliver told Racenet.
“And I would hate to think it would take something like that to happen, a terrible accident, for something to be done.
“Without a doubt I have seen a real extra sense of fatigue in jockeys lately but administrators don’t seem to see a lot of that side of it.
“They are thinking of (wagering) turnover and trying to maximise it.
“We also have to have a broader discussion about the workload of jockeys because you’d hate to see someone have a terrible accident through fatigue.
“Jockeys are having to burn the candle at both ends like never before.”
Hyland agrees a broad discussion needs to be had about jockey workload in Victoria but says one simple but sensible way of trying to limit at least some fatigue is not to run night races as late as they currently are.
“I just reckon the jockeys are exhausted at the moment – it’s just relentless, when you look at Thursday night Pakenham, Friday jumpouts, Friday night racing when you are finishing at 10pm,” Hyland says.
“Then you’ve got to get up and start wasting again to roll up for nine races on a Group I Saturday with high pressure and then racing on Sunday as well.
“At the end of the day, it is wearing the jockeys out.
“If there is no need to be there at 10pm at night, if the industry can’t demonstrate to us what the purpose is of being there at 10pm is, we need to be finishing at 9pm or 9.30pm.
“Even that time saved is gold when you are getting out of bed early the next day.
“I’m presuming the race clubs are going to have a position on dining, maybe people are sitting there eating and drinking at 10pm at night, but we’ve got to find a balancing act.”
Dunn agrees night meetings go too late and has noticed there are plenty of young apprentices who are struggling with the gruelling workload of racing.
“I think we play too deep into the night, we need to shorten them up those night meetings – finish them at 9pm and say that’s enough,” Dunn said.
“Maybe one thing to look at is to have less night meetings and instead have twilight meetings.
“Twilight meetings do work well for most of the jockeys, they are earlier finishes and you end up missing the traffic both ways too.”