Jockeys ‘best pound-for-pound athletes’

08:14 AM September 26, 2010

A STUDY of the elements of athleticism conducted by Los Angeles exercise physiologists and physicians showed that, of all major sports competitors, jockeys may be the best overall athletes, pound for pound.
“They have to be,” wrote American prize-winning author Laura Hillenbrand in her top-selling story about “Seabiscuit,” the horse who became a legend in United States racetracks during the Depression era.
“To begin with, jockeys have to meet the demands on balance, coordination and reflex,” said Hillenbrand, a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, the highest journalistic award in horseracing.
“To be able to ride a racehorse successfully is, without doubt, an extraordinary feat in sports. A jockey does not sit on the saddle, he crouches over it, leaning all of his weight on his toes, which rest on the thin metal bases of stirrups.”
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Racing experts like Edwin Villanueva and Howie Basilio once explained to me that when a horse is off and running, the only parts of the jockey that are in continuous contact with the horse are the insides of the feet and ankles. Thus, with the jockey squat on the pitching back of the horse, everything else is balanced in midair.
Because a racehorse’s neck is narrow in width and slippery like the body of a fish, the jockey will find it hard to grab the horse’s neck to avoid falling to the ground.
Generally small in build, most jockeys tip the scales at no more than 114 pounds. In order to keep their weight down, jockeys take a radical diet to limit their calorie-intake and drink less amount of water, especially during race days. Water, because of its weight, is the prime enemy.
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According to Hillenbrand, “winning jockeys are daring jockeys (the best example being the legendary Eddie Arcaro); jockeys who are capable of gunning a horse through the narrowest hole with a damn-the-torpedoes bravado.”
Jockeys never speak about danger, pain, or fear, even among themselves, she added. Most of them have illusions of invulnerability.
Since racehorse riding is physically tiring, jockeys sometimes appear rubber-legged after dismounting. Thus, strength is not just a tool for winning, it is necessary for survival.
By the way, a retired jockey is easily forgotten by many racing fans. Except for some truly great riders, among them the fabled Elias and Saratan, the rest are now history.
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Jesse B. Guce is the leading money earner among local jockeys, bagging a whopping P3,528,685.24 in prizes while booting in 144 first-place winners. A past “Jockey of the Year” awardee of the Philippine Sportswriters Association, Guce is followed by JT Zarate (P2,865,247.34), FM Raquel Jr. (P2.59 million), MA Alvarez (P1.76 million) and KB Abobo (P1.71 million) in the Top 5.
Other jockeys in the millionaire’s row are: PR Dilema (P1.69 million), JB Cordero (P1.35 million), JB Cordova (P1.34 million), JP Guce (P1.33 million), AB Alcasid Jr. (P1.30 million), JB Hernandez (P1.28 million), JA Guce (P1.23 million), RG Fernandez (P1.197 million), Val Dilema (P1.089 million) and AP Navarosa (P1.089 million).


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