Jealousy rife in racing industry

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor


It's time horse owners and trainers took their blinkers off to take a hard look at themselves for a dose of reality, says a top New Zealand jockey.

The silence from the hobbits of the racing industry is deafening because of the media ban but one of them broke the embargo last night under anonymity when the Hawke's Bay Today contacted some of the elite saddle dwellers.

"Yes, we own not just farms but stations. We also have high-rise apartments and, yes, we take home thousands of dollars although Craig Grylls' plane is just a micro-light and it's his hobby so if he wants to do that then he should go for it," the jockey said in response to grumblings from "short-sighted" owners and trainers caught up in an impasse over a pay rise.

Describing it as a "dog-eat-dog" environment, the jockey said jealousy was rife in the industry.

"If you ask them, they will also tell you we don't need more money because we don't spend much on our grocery bills to keep our weights in check."

Scathingly, the rider accused the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing - "our government, judge and jury" - of overpaid administrators engaging in shoddy management.

"The NZTR handled it very badly because it's a minor issue and if they had handled it right we wouldn't have needed to enforce a media ban."

Jockey James McDonald last night passed his cellphone to Northern Districts Jockeys' Association president Reese Jones when asked why riders should be granted a $10 a ride pay increase, whittled down from a $30 demand.

"There's a media ban until tomorrow when we'll issue a press release and everything will be made clear so I can't comment and no one else will either," Jones said.

Lisa Allpress, Kelly Myers, Jonathan Riddell and McDonald declined to comment last night while Grylls didn't answer his phone but his agent, Mark Claydon, felt his jockey was the best person to make any comments if he wished.

The jockey, who spoke under anonymity last night, said the riders were only asking for a $10 cost of living adjustment.

"It's the first time jockeys have stood up for themselves.

"It's the first time we've said bugger you guys because this is what we want," the rider said, adding those who had invested in properties did so because "their heads are screwed the right way".

When jockeys pulled their sweaters on each night to go for a jog the trainers and owners were "sitting around drinking beer or whisky on the rocks".

Jockeys paid $15,000 in ACC levy in a year.

While most owners had no qualms about paying for travel, accommodation and meals to overseas meetings, jockeys had to foot their bills in New Zealand.

"I have clocked 50,000 kilometres in my car in the past 12 months in petrol and replaced two tyres that cost 800 bucks."

A horse owner himself, the jockey said farrier's bills had justifiably risen and every time a veterinarian drove up the driveway the fees went up.

"We're asking for a little bit more and the trainers and owners are saying we're expendable and we're taking more and more."

Jockeys turned up when asked to do 90 per cent of weekend gallops for no payment when trainers/owners phoned them out of the blue.

The rider didn't want to talk about the stable hands because they were "underpaid".

"We wanted $5 in January and another $5 in August and they offered $2 and $3 and everyone thought that was just pathetic."

While jockeys sometimes rode badly trainers erred as well but also got paid.

"When jockeys throw themselves over the line for a sensational win they don't get any extras."

In an "unwritten rule", every time an owner sold a horse to a buyer in Hong Kong or Singapore - usually in the vicinity of $100,000 - the trainer got a $10,000 cut but the riders didn't see a dime.

Trainers, the jockey said, were guilty of pinching the riders' carparks and yet took home 10 per cent of the stake money plus training fees while jockeys pocketed five per cent.

"In this country we suffer from the tall poppy syndrome.

"Every time someone gets their head up we want to chop it down so that's why we don't succeed in the Olympics or any other sport, you name it."

In Australia, the jockey said, successful sports people were lauded and rewarded accordingly.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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