Sport: Book of the Week

Mick Fitzgerald A Jump-Jockey's Life by Mick Fitzgerald with Carl Evans Mainstream, pounds 15.99, hardback
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The Independent Online
IT IS typical of Mick Fitzgerald that his account of a jump jockey's life is exhaustive. Fitzgerald is most familiar to the casual follower of racing as the rider who produced that quote when asked by Des Lynam how it felt to win the Grand National. But, even before he said "sex is an anticlimax after that", he was well-known as probably the most eloquent and talkative jockey around.

It was said you could ask Fitzgerald a question, press record on your dictaphone, then wander off for lunch, and, when you came back, he would still be talking, having turned the tape over half-way through. And there are times when it feels as if this was the approach used by his co-author, the journalist Carl Evans. Few details of Fitzgerald's life or daily routine are too minor to make it into his book. Which may sound tedious, but turns out far more interesting than the assortment of lame anecdotes which tend to form the standard racing autobiography.

At various points, Fitzgerald admits to driving across fields while seriously under the influence, using laxatives to control his weight, and voices forthright reservations about Tony McCoy's controversial whip action. "If other jockeys are prepared to knuckle down," he writes, "so must he, or the whole thing becomes a joke".

He also lists some of the tricks jockeys use to fool the clerk of the scales, which may not endear him to his fellow riders, and tells some unexpected stories. And all the while there is the backdrop of injury, paralysis, or even death.

Perhaps the most revealing passages are those which deal with Fitzgerald's unending battle with the scales, such as when he had to maintain his absolute minimum weight for almost a week when a big race was twice postponed. Simply reading about it is enough to make you feel peckish.

The one area which Fitzgerald is slightly coy about is precisely how much he gets paid for all this, although the obvious conclusion is that, whatever it is, it is not nearly enough.

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