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RACING: Jockeys returning to winning by numbers

The revised format for the jockeys' championship - aimed at preventing burn-out among riders - was itself put to the torch yesterday, writes Richard Edmondson.

The implementation by Michael Caulfield, the secretary of the Jockeys' Association, of a system whereby the title was decided by prize-money and not winners has been in place for a month. Its aim was to dilute the attraction of starting a season early and finishing late (on the all-weather), as well as taking away the necessity of travelling to all points of the compass, in an effort to prolong the careers of jockeys. But yesterday the scheme was rejected by the very people it was meant to save.

"Despite the well-intentioned move from winners to prizemoney, we cannot fail to recognise that the changes have been unpopular and, to a degree, unaccepted by many other sections of the industry and jockeys," Caulfield said. "I know there are some jockeys who would have liked to have seen the prize-money factor retained for one year, but the overall weight of opinion was to revert to winners."

Caulfield is also likely to have been persuaded by the recent reactions of two high-profile jockeys.

Kevin Darley, who had potentially the most to gain from the new arrangement thanks to his association with Celtic Swing, said he wanted a return to the old system because of "tradition", while the champion jockey, Lanfranco Dettori, is now likely to return to competition through the winter on a regular basis.

The Italian said last week that he was vurtually dropping out of all-weather racing because of the muddle over the championship. He will now continue his pursuit of Jason Weaver, who has 27 winners this year and leads Dettori by one.

A further amendment, to split the championship into two parts, with an all-weather winner and one from the turf season, was rejected as unworkable. "On balance it was felt it may cause further confusion and controversy to create a new season in 1995," Caulfield said.

"This should not have any great implications for jump racing as the current season still has four months to run."