JOCKEY CHAT: Grafton jockeys Ben Looker and Matt McGuren say there’s a bit of banter on the track, but nothing compared to the old days. PHOTO: ADAM HOURIGAN
JOCKEY CHAT: Grafton jockeys Ben Looker and Matt McGuren say there’s a bit of banter on the track, but nothing compared to the old days. PHOTO: ADAM HOURIGAN Adam Hourigan

Jockeys find plenty of good times in racing

IT STARTS out deathly quiet.

The thunder of hooves breaks the silence as the thoroughbreds approach the home stretch.

Punters erupt into cheers and race-callers rise from their stools.

Champagne flies from excited owners' flutes and there are hugs all round; friends and strangers.

But for those up in the saddle, a day at the races sounds a whole lot different.

There's sledging, there's banter, there's all but the silence of concentration we assume from the grandstand.

So just what do jockeys talk about in the few minutes it takes from the barriers to the finish line?

The Daily Examiner caught up with two Grafton jockeys, Ben Looker and Matt McGuren, to get the inside scoop.

"There is a bit of banter going on, but they say it used to be a bit dirty out there," Mr Looker said.

"If someone cuts you short you yell out at them, but these days there are cameras everywhere so you can't get away with much."

Stories have it, pre-camera days, there was more than a bit of name calling and shoving on the track.

In 1961 one of the most famous jockeys of all time, Mel Schumacher, was disqualified for life, later reduced to five years, after he pulled the leg of rival jockey Tommy Hill in the scramble towards the finish line at Randwick.

Mr Looker said while he had never had his leg pulled, he had a similar incident when racing in Brisbane a couple of years back.

"I got my whip stolen off me near the finish line," he said.

"I had accidentally hit his whip out of his hand and he thought it would be a good idea to grab mine and use it."

The whip-thief was disqualified from the race.

Matt McGuren said while there was usually some banter among riders, these days it was usually a clean game.

"A lot of us are mates out there, so we look out for each other," Mr McGuren said.

"You don't want to help them out too much though, but you do if you can.

"Then again if you ride badly, there is always another guy waiting to take your place so it's every man for themselves really."



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