Godolphin have insisted staff members required to lose weight will be helped to do so in a healthy way after it emerged Sheikh Mohammed’s racing operation had set a February 1 target for exercise riders to hit the scales at no more than 67kg (10st 7lb).
Dan Martin, senior nutritionist for the Professional Jockeys Association, claimed setting a timescale of just over three weeks could encourage some riders to resort to “the dark arts,” including self-induced vomiting.
Some of the best work riders I’ve met and worked with are over 67kgs. #Ridiculous Lads will be flipping just to ride out, in the middle of winter no less. You can’t weigh ability pic.twitter.com/O7dfkG2IIX
— Shamela Hanley (@simmy_hanley) January 20, 2019
The staff notice, dated January 8 and posted on social media against Godolphin regulations on Sunday, stated that after the most recent weighing of staff in November the process would in future continue on a monthly basis with records kept by the human resources department. Riders would have to be weighed dressed in riding clothes and boots.
The notice continued: “Any rider who is above 67kg will immediately cease riding and be allocated temporary duties within the yard. They will then be weighed on a weekly basis with the expectation that they must weigh a maximum of 67kg by 1st February 2019. Any rider who is still over 67kg on 1st February 2019 will be dealt with under the Company’s Capability procedure.”
Staff were then informed help would be provided by the company nurse and through gym access, but while some social media users argued 67kg was a perfectly reasonable upper limit, others were less positive about the details of the instruction, with Martin tweeting: “It will promote sweating, starving, flipping etc. Fine principle. Poor policy.”
Speaking to the Racing Post, Martin said: “Staff who ride horses need to be mindful of their weight for the training benefit of the horse, so I’m supportive of Godolphin and trainers in that respect.
“However, the timescale involved here is nowhere near long enough. When jockeys come to us wanting to lose a significant amount of weight, say half a stone, we would be looking at a minimum six weeks to achieve that. Permanent weight loss has to come from fat. You cannot lose that type of weight in three weeks.
“The only way the guys will be able to do it is by being forced down the same route that jockeys take on a daily basis, namely sweating, not eating and potentially the darker arts, such as laxatives and flipping. We don’t want jockeys to do it, and we’re moving them away from it, but there should definitely be no need for racing’s workforce to be doing it.”
A number of trainers currently advertising for work riders on the sport’s Careers In Racing website have set weight limits. Hugo Palmer has asked for inquiries from those under 10st, while Robert Cowell’s peak figure is 10st 7lb. James Fanshawe wants someone “ideally under 9st 7lb”, while John Gosden’s advertisement for staff refers to a “reasonable weight to ride three lots per day”.
Godolphin, which sponsors awards for stable staff around the world, was defended by an anonymous staff member, who said: “This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Godolphin have always weighed staff, but perhaps over the last 12 months they have been more lenient due to the staffing crisis.
“What are now referred to as the ‘new’ contracts state the riding out weight is 67kg. If, once employed, you then cannot do that weight you are dealt with through the company’s capability policy, which is not contractual or disciplinary. My understanding is people will be looked after under that policy and may be offered different roles if necessary. They have now advertised for stable staff with a weight of 63kg but that only applies to new recruits.
“There is subsidised membership of the Bedford Lodge Spa as well as the Newmarket Leisure Centre. Alongside this there is a gym onsite at Godolphin Stables that any member of staff can use.
“The help offered is better than from any yard I know. Godolphin also provide fruit and breakfast snacks and there’s a cafeteria at Dalham Hall Stud that offers a fresh cooked lunch and vegetarian option, salad bar, sandwiches and soup. “
A Godolphin statement said: “Godolphin has maintained a weight requirement for our riders for many years. It is a straightforward way to ensure the welfare of horse and rider. Almost every single Godolphin rider is below 67kg. Those few who are not are carefully assisted in losing weight in a sensible and healthy way.”
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