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Unwritten rules of racing: giving a fellow jockey a shout & racing for a Mars Bar

As a jockey, there are the laws of the game enforced by the BHA that we have to abide by. Go over the limit with the stick by just one use and you could face up to an 8-day ban. Imagine every time you miscalculated something in your workplace you had to take 8 days unpaid leave. That’s what we face as jockeys. That said, as much as I think this is an incredibly harsh rule I can’t really think of a better way to do it. There has to be a line drawn in the sand somewhere and once the rules are set out in black & white we, as jockeys, can act accordingly. A classic case of harsh… but fair.

The stewards don’t see everything, however. Though you wouldn’t believe this if you set foot inside the Steward’s Room – there are more TVs in there than you’ll find in Currys.

But no sport can run smoothly just on the laws of the game, particularly a sport as dangerous as horse racing. You need etiquette, custom, and a code between jockeys.

Unwritten & often unspoken there are rules you learn as you go. Hard as these lessons can be to learn they do make the sport safer and easier for its participants if we all abide by them.

Jockey code dictates: you must, MUST give a loud shout to any jockey you are catching in the shadows of the post for a place (2nd, 3rd, or 4th). There are big penalties in place for “putting your hands down” if you stop riding before the line and lose a place as a result. This is for betting purposes – punters naturally feel aggrieved if a horse they have backed each-way is run out of a place late on due to lax riding by a jockey. Furthermore, it is to prevent the temptation for jockeys to be crooked and attempt to manipulate results in their favour. Like all rules that are there to remove the temptation to cheat, they seem very harsh on the perpetrator when broken by accident but absolutely necessary to prevent foul play.

This can actually be quite a fun unwritten rule to abide by. Often jockeys will exaggerate their screams of warning to the jockey in front. “KEEP GOINGGGG, I’M GONNA CATCH YOUUU” (with a deliberate voice break thrown in for comic effect).

This unwritten rule is in place for the greater good of all jockeys & horses. No jockey wants to give their horse a harder race than necessary, especially when winning is no longer possible. And this isn’t a case of “after you, Sir/Madam”, or an example of jockeys not trying hard enough. It is just an extra safety net to prevent the jockey ahead of you from making a careless mistake and earning themselves a 10-day ban.

This rule absolutely does not apply to the horse leading the race. When there is a race on the line, it’s every man/female jockey for themselves.

Occasionally, and this tends to take place even further down the field, you will hear a horse catching you and the voice of the jockey on top say “race you for a Mars Bar”. When you hear this it really does intensify the situation. It turns a scenario where you don’t really mind whether you finish last or second last into the biggest race of the season. This really does happen but I do want to remind the reader to take what I’ve said with a little pinch of salt. We will laugh and shout and may even get a little more animated in the saddle but we will absolutely stay within the confines of what is expected of us as jockeys.

And just in case the BHA are reading this, I hereby categorically state and solemnly swear that I have never seen a real-life Mars Bar actually exchange hands following the described events above. After all, we are jockeys, and we are prohibited from betting.

As a final note, although other confectionaries are available, it is always, always for a Mars bar that we race. If somebody tried to race me for the chance to win a Bounty I would probably pull up and dismount halfway up the running (I’m not a fan of Bounty’s).

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