One of the world’s premier horse racing festivals, the Grand National, is close at hand. The event is mere weeks away, and fans are eagerly waiting. The contestants are all set, and it’s aiming to be one of the best racing festivals in recent memory.
When you’re at the track or watching races online, it all seems so effortless. Jockeys hold onto the reins and slap their horses, who run faster and faster to the finish line. But things are never as easy as they seem. As a matter of fact, jockeys put a lot of time into preparation – both physical and mental – especially for races such as the Grand National.
Jockeys are professional athletes who compete in horse racing events. They must undergo rigorous training and follow strict diets to maintain their fitness and weight. Jockeys typically start their day early in the morning, riding several horses for different trainers at the racetrack. They also exercise regularly, doing cardio, strength, and flexibility workouts. Jockeys have to watch their calorie intake and avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar, or salt. They often use saunas or sweat suits to lose water weight before a race. Jockeys must also study the form of the horses they ride and their opponents and plan their strategies accordingly. Jockeys must be mentally tough and resilient, facing many challenges and risks in their profession.
Choosing the Right Horse for the Job
British horse racing events are incredibly popular for punters. Whether you’re a racegoer looking to score on the big day or a seasoned online betting veteran with plenty of exotic ideas for the event, there are plenty of Grand National betting offers at online bookmakers.
However, rarely anyone knows that your betting chances and the odds are not affected by the runner only but by the jockey too. In short, how the jockey prepares is essential to evaluating every horse’s betting odds, including choosing the right horse for the job.
You might have noticed how jockeys ride different horses. While trainers have a say in this, their word alone doesn’t do the job. Jockey agents are essential to pair a jockey with a horse. They know the strengths and weaknesses of each runner and jockey and make the right pairing depending on the race. You wouldn’t put a sprinter in a fence race, right? Neither do the agents.
Of course, jockey agents are paid handsomely for their jobs, especially if their pairing works. Should the runner and jockey they picked win a race as big as the Gold Cup, they will receive an excellent percentage of the jockey’s fee. These horse scouts also advise jockeys on the horses running style and share strategies that can help them win the race. This is the first part of a long-running jockey preparation that ultimately allows them to win races on the big stage.
One thing everyone must understand is that jockeys are athletes. They are bound to lose if they don’t prepare for a race mentally and physically. Contrary to popular belief, the horse doesn’t do the job alone. The jockey steers runners to the win; the best among them can even improve a runner’s winning odds.
Since we’re talking about horses, eating right is essential for jockeys before a race. Jockeys are supposed to be strong, have excellent cardiovascular fitness levels, and have extraordinary handling skills. Days and weeks before the race, jockeys are very mindful about what they eat. Chugging down burgers and beer isn’t going to cut it. The physical nature of their profession doesn’t allow them to take sidesteps, so they stick to a strict diet. Professional jockeys also face a lot of pressure to maintain their body weight. A pound or two more can add pressure to the horse, which could ultimately lead to a lost race.
No two jockeys are the same; their size also affects the races.
- Jump jockeys are taller and weigh more. This is because jump races require more stamina as the horses are put through a slew of obstacles.
- Flat jockeys weigh less and are typically shorter, as the horses are younger and the races are shorter.
Pre-race meals for jockeys are high in carbs and low in fat. This is because low-fiber and low-fat foods are likely to cause digestive discomfort. Let’s not forget that jockeys ride on horseback and jump up and down the race.
A full-fat meal can result in many digestive problems, and no one wants that when racing for a prize purse worth half a million pounds.
Ideally, the meal should be consumed two to three hours before the race. As for the meal itself, there are no restrictions. It’s best to eat familiar foods to which the jockey isn’t allergic too. A home-cooked meal should do fine. In some situations, jockeys put themselves on a low-fiber diet for up to three days before the races. As you can see, meal planning and preparation seriously impact the race itself, affecting everyone – trainers, runners, jockeys, and may even impact horse race betting fans. You don’t want to lose a good bet just because a jockey hasn’t eaten well before a race.
Iconic jockeys such as AP McCoy are known to have only four main meals during the week. He can be regularly seen working out in a gym and running to stay fit for the races. No drinking is allowed, and McCoy has several sugar boosts on race days that give him the right energy.
While some disregard the importance of mental preparation, jockeys take it seriously. Aside from weighing out to ensure the horse carries the proper weight, they also clear their minds days before the event. Some meditate, and others isolate themselves from all kinds of media. When the stakes are high, mental preparation can go a long way.
That goes double for jockeys riding several horses in a festival like Grand National. You don’t want to read anyone bashing you before a performance, and it’s the same for jockeys. In the era of the Internet, anyone can say anything about athletes. Put yourself in their position – can comments harm you? Some jockeys can withstand the pressure, but some can’t, so they must clear their minds before the race with social media isolation.
Mental preparation in riding is essential for a good performance. It also allows riders to restrict emotional cross-contamination between them and the horse. In short, all riders need to have the right attitude before a big race and not be negative about it. No rider’s face should reveal emotions like in a poker game. They should learn how to control their emotions at a perfect level and learn to focus, as stress can always get in the way.
The best among them are physically and mentally fit, resulting in many won races that have made them (deservedly) millionaires.
This article was published on April 5, 2023, and last updated on April 5, 2023.