There are around 450 professional jockeys currently licensed in Great Britain, along with 300 amateurs.
Jockeys maintain a supreme level of fitness in order to fulfil their daily routine of riding and schooling horses in training as well as riding in races.
Of course no two jockeys are alike – each has his or her own riding style and, like any elite sportsperson, a particular set of attributes. However, it is possible to draw contrasts between jockeys who ride on the Flat and those who ride over Jumps.
- Jump jockeys tend to be taller and weigh more than flat jockeys, they require strength and stamina for the longer jump races.
- Flat jockeys tend to weigh less and as a result are likely to be shorter too. The races are shorter and faster and the horses younger.
While the majority of jockeys are men, female jockeys compete alongside their male rivals.
Apprentice (Flat racing) and Conditional (Jump racing) jockeys
Professional jockeys at the start of their career are licensed as either Apprentice jockeys (Flat racing) or Conditional jockeys (Jump racing).
When they get their license, both Apprentices and Conditionals can make a 7lb claim. This is a weight allowance designed to provide an advantage to their horse in return for the potential disadvantage of having a relatively inexperienced jockey.
After so many rides and wins this claim is reduced to 5lb, then 3lb and then a jockey loses their claim and becomes like any other professional.
You can spot this next to the jockey’s name in the racecard – it will show (7), (5) or (3) in brackets so you know if they have a weight allowance.
Some races are for Apprentices or Conditional jockeys only, but generally they can compete with professional jockeys who have no claim.
Some jockeys ride as amateurs with careers outside the saddle. It is not uncommon for amateurs to win even the most iconic races in Britain. Certain races are designated for amateur jockeys only, but generally professionals and amateurs compete together.