Racing: Jockeys push on pensions

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The Independent Online
A DELEGATION of jockeys to the Houses of Parliament yesterday presented a case for favourable pension rights on the basis that their often brief careers can be brought to an abrupt end by the hazardous nature of their profession. The presence of Declan Murphy among the deputation was a stark reminder of the dangers.

Murphy is recovering slowly from the fall at Haydock in May in which he sustained head injuries that nearly ended his life. He is still committed to returning to the saddle but so far has done no more than sit on a pony. 'And I couldn't make him go,' he said. 'I don't know if I will ever be allowed again to take part in my sport.'

If that pessimistic view proves correct then Murphy would provide a typical example of the situation that yesterday's delegation seeks to change. At present, jockeys are bound by the regulations which restrict tax relief to the first 17.5 per cent of pension contributions made by people under 35.

That rises to 35 per cent for people between 56 and 60 and to 40 per cent for people 61 and over.

However, unlike those who follow a more conventional working lifestyle, jump jockeys usually enjoy their most remunerative years when they are in their twenties and are usually forced to retire by their mid-thirties. Flat jockeys usually ride on longer but are still susceptible to the same bone-crunching, career- ending falls. What they seek is to be able to contribute more money to their pension - and gain tax relief on it - when at the height of their earning powers.

As Murphy, 27, said: 'I have had my best successes in the last five years, yet I am within 10 years of the (jump jockeys') retirement age of 35. These are the years when I should have the opportunity to save for my pension.'

Murphy, along with Peter Scudamore, John Reid and Carl Llewellyn, joined Michael Caulfield, the Jockeys' Association secretary, in taking the case to Parliament. With the backing of John Greenway MP, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Insurance and Financial Services Group, they will next lobby the Treasury for change.

'You have only to go round stable yards to see old jockeys who retired in their thirties having to work round stables until they are into their sixties,' Greenway said, while Llewellyn confirmed that the present generation may not be better placed. 'We're only now becoming aware of pensions,' he said. 'So many haven't a clue what they'll do at 35.'