The National Steeplechase Association’s first Jockey Seminar on May 24 attracted a large crowd of 31 riders to Fair Hill, Md., and drew high praise from them for the materials presented in the day-long session.
A project of the NSA’s Steeplechase Safety Committee, the seminar covered a wide range of topics, and attendance was required for jockeys planning to ride at Saratoga Race Course and strongly recommended for riding at other pari-mutuel tracks this summer.
Dr. Reynolds Cowles, an NSA board member and chair of the Steeplechase Safety Committee, credited Senior Steward Gregg Morris and NSA board member Nick Ellis for pulling together the speakers and presenters. “I believe this seminar surpassed our expectations, and the best was at the end when several riders came up and said, `Please do this every year!’.”
Among the featured speakers were two-time Olympic medalist James Wofford, who reviewed the basics of jumping a fence, and retired leading flat jockey Ramon Dominguez. Also presenting on riding topics were retired riders Paddy Neilson and Charles Lawrence II. NSA Steward Gus Brown, a retired jockey, discussed equipment and stressed the importance of having two helmets available in case one is damaged.
At the afternoon session, NSA Senior Stewards Ross Pearce and Morris discussed stewards’ decisions and the relationship between jockeys and stewards. Duncan Patterson, chairman of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission and a member of the NSA’s Stewards Advisory Committee, explained how appeals from stewards’ decisions are handled.
Capping the day’s activities was a presentation by Dr. SarahJane Cullen, the Irish Turf Club’s research and education officer. She provided a lively presentation on making weight safely, basic nutrition, hydration, and lifestyle.
Champion jockey Willie McCarthy, in a note to the Jockey Seminar’s organizers, said he found Dr. Cullen’s information most helpful. “Dr. Cullen definitely opened my eyes as to what are essential diet and fitness necessities for a professional jockey in the modern era,” he said.
Speaking of the entire program, McCarthy said: “I thought it was very well put together and feel that I amongst numerous other jockeys came away with something beneficial from the day.” McCarthy said he and his fellow jockeys welcomed the opportunity to discuss their concerns with stewards and other racing officials.
The day’s activities were videotaped by HCP Sports, and Dr. Cowles said the Steeplechase Safety Committee will now evaluate how to best utilize the Jockey Seminar content.