Watching the biggest horse races in the world introduces us to the names of athletes that often get overlooked in the world of sports. As powerful as a racehorse is, there is another member of the team who should be recognized. The jockey is an integral part of horseracing. Let’s take a minute to learn a little about who they are and what they do.

Famous Names in Horseracing

Even if you’ve never been a part of horseracing, you probably know the name Bill Shoemaker. He was a massive deal for a long time with a career that spanned 41 years, starting in 1955. He was the winning jockey for 11 Triple Crown Races. His work was impressive. Other great names you might recognize include Laffit Pincay, Jr., Pat Day, and Chris McCarron.

What Are the Physical Requirements of Jockeys?

Becoming a jockey isn’t on everyone’s radar because it does have specific physical requirements that only an elite few meet. It is interesting to note that, while most professional jockeys are men, women compete alongside men in the sport of horseracing.

Becoming a jockey requires training, just like the horses. The only school for jockeys is the North American Racing Academy at Bluegrass Community Technical College in Kentucky, which offers a 2-year program. However, there are other avenues to train for the sport.

Weight is the most critical factor for a jockey. It’s simple physics that the lighter the load, the faster the horse. Since the regulations allow a racehorse to carry up to 122 pounds, including their tack, a jockey must weigh around 110 to 120. Before every race, the jockeys weigh in with their tack to ensure they meet the race requirements.

How Do Jockeys Pick Their Horses?

So how does a jockey get paired up with a horse? Jockeys are self-employed athletes who work with agents who help them select their racehorses. It’s not surprising that trainers and owners want the best jockeys to ride, so competition is high. Agents will be the liaison between the horse’s team and the jockeys and will call around to make the deal. The jockey will then be paid a small fee by the owners and trainers and a percentage of the winnings.

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