Jockeys warm up by rocking with Rudolph

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Britain's jump jockeys have had very little to do during the recent cold spell, but the latest addition to their changing room at Newbury is more than just a way to keep them amused while they wait for the track to thaw.

Rudolph the Ride-away is a rocking horse with a difference. Designed and built by Richard Perham, a Flat jockey who is also a skilled carpenter, Rudolph slides back and forth on a series of springs and has a pivoted neck.

This allows jockeys to practise their technique - the champions Richard Dunwoody and Lanfranco Dettori already have one at home - and, just as importantly, to limber up their muscles before riding on a bitter winter afternoon.

"All other athletes warm up to the benefit of the sport and themselves, and I've often heard jockeys say that they're just getting warmed up by the second race," Dr Michael Turner, the Jockey Club's chief medical officer, said yesterday. "That may now be a thing of the past."

Newbury's chief executive Major-General David Pank said: "This will be a marvellous training aid and will teach the young riders a little bit about style and co-ordinated whip action."

Perham, currently working in Saudi Arabia for Prince Faisal, would be delighted to see one of his horses in each of the country's 60 weighing rooms. He sells them for pounds 650 each, and supplied 20 to fellow jockeys last year.

Rudolph was due to be unveiled at Newbury's Christmas meeting - hence the name - but that card too was lost to the weather. The course has now thawed out, but after heavy rain yesterday, today's valuable meeting may be abandoned due to waterlogging.

If racing does go ahead, Jamie Osborne will not wish to repeat his first experience on Rudolph yesterday. Osborne, one of the country's finest jockeys, climbed aboard, and promptly fell off.

Racing, pages 26 and 27