Virus break leaves jockeys ‘vulnerable’

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With British racing off until the end of April at the earliest, riders are likely to feel the pinch, the Professional Jockeys Association chief has warned.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to a shutdown of all British meets until the end of next month at least, with PJA chief exec Paul Struthers keen to highlight that jockeys will be struggling as much as members of any other profession.

“I think the situation for jockeys is bleak, in the same way that it’s bleak for racing and the same way it’s bleak and worrying for the rest of the country and the entire world,” he said.

“The whole of racing is significantly affected. Jockeys, certainly in the very short term, are the most immediately affected, given that they are largely self-employed and their ability to earn any income, outside riding out, is immediately curtailed.”

Significant salary variation exists among jockeys, with Struthers adding for context that a standard flat jockey will typically earn less than £30,000 after expenses, with £20,000 the estimation for a jump jockey.

The closures are having a knock-on effect, too, with trainers forced to lay off stable staff in order to stay afloat.

But while British courses are set to lie unused for the foreseeable future, across the Irish Sea meets are still going ahead – albeit behind closed doors – permitting Irish riders to carry on earning their keep.

Struthers conceded the continuation of Irish racing may well be raising hackles on British soil but maintains that the decision to suspend the calendar – a call supported by the PJA – was based on medical advice, with concerns raised about the welfare of injured riders given ambulance cutbacks and the current strain on hospitals nationwide.

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