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Life as an Apprentice Jockey

View profile for Paul Burkinshaw
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Life as an Apprentice Jockey

Apprentice jockeys are licenced riders aged between 16 and 25, working their way up to professional jockey status by riding with and competing against professional jockeys. They are employed by UK racehorse trainers throughout their apprenticeship.

Apprentice jockeys race on the flat, whilst conditional jockeys ride over jumps. Being an apprentice jockey requires a lot of dedication and commitment, as well as the required amount of skill and horsemanship!

When racing, the horses must carry a certain amount of weight. If the rider is under the required weight, weights are added to the saddle to make up the difference. Apprentice jockeys have a weight allowance in races as their chances of winning are not as high as the professional jockeys. Up until they have won 20 races, apprentice jockeys will have a weight allowance of 7lbs, meaning they can run the race with the horse carrying less weight to increase their chances of winning.

Once an apprentice has won 20 races, their allowance (or “claim”) drops to 5lb, and then further down to 3lb when they have won 50 races. Once an apprentice jockey reaches 95 wins, they become a professional jockey and no longer have a weight claim.

The life of an apprentice jockey is not an easy one. Being a jockey is physically and mentally tough. It is essential that apprentice jockeys have their opportunity to prove themselves, whilst trainers and owners may prefer somebody with more experience (and wins) under their breeches to ride their horses.

Harrowells have been sponsoring apprentice jockeys for the last four years. With close links to Thirsk racecourse and our speciality in horse racing law, it is a good opportunity for us to give something back to the horse racing community. By providing our support and their silks for the season, our sponsored apprentices get a leg-up in a tough and competitive field.

Our current apprentice, Poppy Bridgwater is based at trainer Tony Carroll’s stables in Pershore, some 20 minutes north of Cheltenham. She has held her apprentice licence for a year, and in that year she has had approximately 330 rides.

With 32 winners, Poppy currently has a 5lb claim which she is hoping to lose this season. She is especially looking forward to riding a few horses she made good partnerships with last season such as Pour La Victoire, De Vegas Kid and Baltic Prince.

Poppy is hoping to get her first winner for Harrowells soon and she is definitely one to watch. 

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