Food for thought for 'Dream Team'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2012, 12:00am


While the Jockey Club did not necessarily intend the policy changes last week to contain the 'Dream Team' of John Size and Douglas Whyte, it is a natural presumption that putting their working relationship back into a stricter trainer-club jockey context at least gives them something to think about.

The difference between Whyte and Size combining in their current fashion or falling in with the new policy percentages amounts to only 30-40 rides a year, just a few every month, on average.

And that is the hidden key to managing the situation - we are dealing with percentages over a season rather than every week or month and the trade-off might have to be that Whyte gives up some of the foundation racing with horses early in their preparations, having their first or second starts before they are ready to fire.

It isn't the first time the matter has been brought up and it isn't just to put a handbrake on successful players.

In the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, when both the Size-Shane Dye and Tony Cruz-Felix Coetzee percentages came under scrutiny, they were higher than any combination now.

Dye was riding over 70 per cent of Size's runners, while Coetzee was on Cruz's horses more than 80 per cent of the time in 2002-03, and it was suggested that both teams should formalise retainerships or ease off.

When a jockey is retained and paid for by the owners in a stable, it's fair enough that stable gets to monopolise his services, but the Jockey Club, rightly, feels it is being roughly handled when a jockey with accommodation and other expenses met by the club is only there for the benefit of a particular bunch of owners.

To compare those figures with a real-deal retainership, Darren Beadman last season rode only 54.6 per cent of John Moore's runners, and had 74.5per cent of his total rides provided by Moore.

The main change with the new policy is going to be the Matthew Chadwick-Tony Cruz team, with Chadwick riding just under 60 per cent of Cruz's runners this season - that will have to come down to no more than 50 per cent - and Cruz providing 75 per cent of Chadwick's rides, which must be no more than 60 per cent.

The other 'policy' change - that, unlike these 'team' percentages will actually be a rule - is the loss of the two-pound claim in perpetuity for local jockeys.

And the first impression of that adjustment is that Eddy Lai Wai-ming is dead in the water. He isn't flying with the claim and losing it won't help.

The introduction of the local-jockey allowances pulled the Chinese riders out of a death spiral and has been one of the smarter changes introduced in the last seven years. The season before that began, Chinese jockeys rode a total of 21 winners and had become almost irrelevant in their own racing jurisdiction.

In the three seasons before allowances came in, Lai rode only 43 winners and he was way ahead of the other jockey affected by the change now, Howard Cheng Yue-tin, who rode 32 in the same three years and now gets more than that each season.

What is wrong with removing the claim - or at the very least making the threshold something far more meaningful than 250 wins - is that the decent young local jockeys, coming through a system about which the club likes to crow, will again get a look ahead to when they lose their two pounds and become less competitive, a discouraging view they got back in 2005.

The expats might not like Cheng or Lai having a two-pound allowance after more than 250 winners, but it is their country and, unlike the expats, their options to try somewhere else are very limited.