Sticking an apprentice jockey into a big horse race may sound particularly unfair for the inexperienced rider – but actually it’s very common practice. Apprentice jockeys appear regularly in horse racing across the UK and Ireland and their presence ensures there is always a strong flow of high-quality jockeys feeding into the sport.
What’s more, apprentice jockeys get an advantage over their professional counterparts when they are just starting out.
Apprentice jockey weight allowances
Having an apprentice jockey race against seasoned professionals may seem like the odds are stacked against the newcomer. But in fact this isn’t always the case. That’s because race organisers in the UK and Ireland grant apprentice jockeys – or ‘conditional’ jockeys if they are racing in the National Hunt season – a weight allowance.
This takes the form of weight taken out of the saddle, so the horse has less weight to carry on its back. As we’ve explained in a previous guide on how weights in horse racing work, horses race with lead weighs attached in order to ensure an even playing field, because the weight of each jockey varies. But certain conditions – such as the experience of the jockey – means those weights can be taken off, thus the advantage or allowance.
It’s also crucial to remember that apprentice jockeys aren’t amateurs. They are simply starting out in the world of professional jockeying and so are afforded more leeway with weights than their more experienced fellows.
The apprentice jockey weight allowances are as follows:
- 7lb allowance for first 20 winners ridden
- 5lb allowance for 21-40 winners ridden
- 3lb allowance for 41-75 winners ridden
After jockeys have won 75 Flat races they won’t receive any more weight allowance. For conditional jockeys the allowances are as follows:
National Hunt (jump racing)
- 7lb allowance for first 20 winners ridden
- 5lb allowance for 21-50 winners ridden
- 3lb allowance for 51-95 winners ridden
How to spot an apprentice jockey
You can see if an apprentice jockey or conditional jockey is competing by looking at the race card while horse racing betting. You’ll see a number in brackets next to the apprentice/conditional jockey’s name, either (3), (5) or (7). The number indicates how much weight in pounds has been deducted from the saddle. So, a jockey with a (3) next to their name has won more races than one with (7).
It is worth remembering that some horses will have weight allowances for other reasons and the weight will also be placed in brackets next to the jockey’s name.
Do apprentice jockeys have worse odds?
Relieving apprentice jockeys of weight gives them a better chance of competing with experienced riders during a race – and it also improves their odds. However, it can be tricky to determine just who holds the advantage in a race that includes apprentice jockeys.
After all, the new kids may be supremely talented riders and could storm to victory despite being priced at 30/1. Or, the weight may make little difference and they could still finish dead last despite the full 7lbs being withdrawn.
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