'It will keep happening' - jockeys' chief fires warning over weighing-in errors
The Professional Jockeys Association has warned the sport runs the risk of a "hugely damaging" similar incident in a high-profile event after a rider failed to weigh in for the 11th time since racing resumed following lockdown.
Chief executive Paul Struthers accepts that weighing in is a rider's responsibility, but called for action from the sport's authorities after Lucy Barry became the latest jockey to be banned for seven days after failing to do so at Doncaster on Monday. Her mount, Hawthorn Cottage, was disqualified from second place.
Struthers pointed to the changes to course layouts caused by coronavirus protocols and social distancing, which means that riders no longer automatically return to the weighing room to get changed after a race, with alternative facilities in place.
Although on-course signage has been boosted since Alexander Thorne was banned for 21 days for failing to weigh in on a winner at Taunton last November, Struthers is asking for staff to be posted on the door of overflow changing rooms.
"Some courses have done it but it's not been mandated," he said. "We've said for some time that, yes, the responsibility is on the jockey and that is why forgetting to weigh in comes with a suspension, albeit they are predicated on normal times when you have to walk past the clerk of the scales. These aren't normal times.
"The set-ups are brilliantly done from a Covid perspective but when we've had more cases since the return of racing on June 1 than you'd expect in a two- or three-year period, it's clearly an enhanced risk.
"It would not be remotely expensive to fix by simply re-deploying someone who's already on the course to stand by the overflow changing room door, or the female changing room door if that's separate to where the scales are, and to remind jockeys to weigh in."
Struthers added: "I accept there is a lot going on and I accept the challenging financial climate. But we're not saying get an extra member of staff in on minimum wage for five hours, we're saying can you deploy someone temporarily to that door post-race? It shouldn't cost anything.
"The pushback will be 'the responsibility is on the jockey' and it is. But whether we like it or not people make mistakes. Now and again after a race you will go back to where you got changed because that's what you've done for your entire life."
Struthers pointed to the industry-wide effect of disqualifications caused by a rider failing to weigh in.
"It's not just about preventing jockeys from being banned, losing their riding fee and their share of the prize-money," he said. "It's a much bigger issue – it affects punters and the owner."
And Struthers warned that there will be further instances if no action is taken.
"It will keep happening," he said. "If the sport is happy with that, fine. But we don't think the sport should be happy with that because it will happen again. It will happen to a winner and it will happen on a bigger profile day and that will be hugely damaging to the sport.
"We should be doing our utmost to stop it from happening in the first place."
In response, a BHA spokesperson said: "The responsibility for weighing in lies solely with riders. We have worked with racecourses to improve signage to remind jockeys to weigh in since the recent occurrences of riders forgetting to do so.
"Staff currently able to attend fixtures do so on an essential basis only, with many fulfilling multiple roles on a raceday in order to minimise the numbers present at a fixture.
"Discussions are ongoing with racecourses and the PJA to explore options which may assist in minimising the chances of incidents like this happening again."
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