About turn in jockeys' title contest

NAP: Livio (Sedgefield 3.40) NB: Kibby Bank (Sedgefield 1.10)
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The Independent Online
One of the most unpopular changes in racing in recent years, the decision to decide the jockeys' championship by prize-money won rather than on number of winners, has been reversed after a lifespan of just a month. The original changes were made partly to ensure that the Flat championship was not contested merely by those energetic riders who were prepared to race at the all-weather tracks from January to March before the season on turf began. To get around this problem, the Flat championship is to be split to cover the all-weather and turf campaigns.

A new contest will begin at Doncaster in March, the traditional start of the Flat season, running through to November. A separate all-weather championship will cover the months from November until March the following year.

The about-turn by the Jockeys' Association, expected to be confirmed within the next few weeks, was signalled after the organisation's secretary, Michael Caulfield, was called to Newmarket to discuss the format with concerned riders last week.

Many jockeys are known to favour separate all-weather and turf championships. This would enable riders such as Lanfranco Dettori and Jason Weaver to spend their winters abroad leaving the meetings at Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton to the weighingroom's lesser lights.

The Jockeys' Association underestimated the reaction to a format which would award the jockeys' titles to the rider who accumulated the most win and place prize-money in a season.

Introduced to counter the risk of "burn-out" among young jockeys, it threatened to bring an end to the head-to-head rivalries between the leading riders that have enlivened many a small late-season meeting. The contests between Steve Cauthen and Pat Eddery and Richard Dunwoody and Adrian Maguire have created the sort of excitement that brings in crowds and draws a wider audience to racing.

The short-lived format also set up the possibility of visiting jockeys, such as Ireland's Michael Kinane, scooping the title by winning just a few big races.

The champion jumps trainer, David Nicholson, said he would back any campaign to revert to the old system and Tattersalls Committee, which rules on betting disputes, refused to recognise the new format.

Caulfield, who has proven an extremely able advocate on behalf of the jockeys, has admitted that the change in format was made without sufficient consultation. However, he has remedied the situation with commendable swiftness and grace.