‘Fatigue kills’: Jockeys warn of dangerous workloads after serious falls

Jockey fatigue from unpaid track work is contributing to serious falls, according to group one-winning silk Ben Melham, after a third rider in as many weeks was injured and a horse destroyed on Saturday.

Melham’s partner, Jamie Kah, was still recovering from a major fall that landed her in hospital when Teo Nugent was taken to hospital after his mount, Florescent Star, fell in race six at Moonee Valley on Saturday. Nugent suffered concussion and a fractured C1 vertebra, but may be released on Sunday. Florescent Star was euthanised.

Florescent Star, pictured at Flemington earlier this month, was euthanised after a fall at Moonee Valley on Saturday. Credit:Racing Photos

Melham in a Twitter post said racing requires mental clarity and claimed the fatigue caused by current jockey workloads increased the risk of a fall.

“The elephant in the room needs to be addressed. Victorian work load on racing participants in [sic] far to[o] high,” he wrote. “Turn over and revenue is important but not at the expense of peoples lives. Fatigue kills! Hopefully 3 near death experiences in 3 weeks is enough…”

Victorian Jockeys’ Association chief executive Matt Hyland said his group had recently made it clear to Racing Victoria that they did not want any increase in the number of night or twilight meetings, but there was a broad acceptance of the current calendar.

Hyland said the biggest frustration for Victorian jockeys was the expectation that licensed jockeys do jump outs without being paid, which increased their workload but not their income. He said if licensed jockeys were paid for this extra work caused by staff shortages, they might have more capacity to choose which meetings they rode at and when they did so.

Teo Nugent was injured in a fall at Moonee Valley on Saturday.Credit:Racing Photos

“No one thinks now that people should be going and doing loads of unpaid work on a whim and a prayer that they are going to generate an opportunity. That should not occur in 2023,” Hyland said.

“The reason that has become more prevalent is the staff shortage in the industry, and with a staff shortage and the lack of track riders there is an increase to the number of jump outs [licensed jockeys have to ride].

“The participants are starting to speak. They are saying in their own words, enough, we can’t do any more. Don’t add more in to [the schedule].”

Hyland said jockeys understand the need to service the customer, and it was important they were able to run their own agenda, but the industry needed to be aware of the effect the staff shortages were having on all sections.

Craig Newitt, who steered home a treble at Moonee Valley on Saturday, is known as one of the state’s hardest working jockeys. He says he is fortunate to ride at a light weight because he suspects wasting for rides is the biggest reason jockeys are fatigued on race day.

He can tell when a jockey has had to waste hard to make a mount as their demeanour is different, and although the bodies of those who do it regularly can adjust, tiredness does accumulate.

Newitt said that jockeys have a responsibility to present at a racetrack healthy and ready to ride, but he admitted that managing your workload was easier as you matured and if you weren’t wasting.

“I would think a big part of fatigue in a rider is [due to] wasting,” Newitt said.

“I don’t think racing less is going to be the answer.”

Newitt rides in races almost daily but says he can’t imagine doing so if he had to waste constantly. His mount, Bellsielle had to avoid Nugent’s mount Florescent Star in Saturday’s fall that occurred during race six.

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