We received an interesting article this week in the Duralock offices, from jockeytalk360.com, on how Valets smooth the way for jockeys in the USA:
“… The first thing he does is ice down the different drinks (Sprite, Coke, iced tea, Gatorade, water) that his jockeys like to drink. A special sliding container is replenished with candy bars, chips, cookies, and assorted snacks… the next task, is checking helmets and laying out helmet covers that match saddle cloths. Saddle girths and whips are checked for condition. Goggles by the dozens have to be cleaned. Depending on the distance of a race, jockeys will wear three to four sets of goggles. A trip to the laundry room is followed by laying out all the pants, socks, and underwear that have been washed and dried from the night before. Gilbert has 40 towels in his stockpile, and by the end of the night they will all be soiled. Each of his riders has two to three pairs of boots. Elbows flying, he has to have the boots shined and laid out before the first jockeys arrive in the room.”
Which got us wondering if they exist outside of the USA, and if so, what the differences would be between a a US and a UK valet? Well, it turns out they do indeed exist over here, with their own Flat and Jump Associations and a pretty similar working day to their US counterparts.
Mainly made up of men that used to be jockey’s themselves, they have an understanding of the needs and the pecking order of the jockeys in the Weighing Room before a race. The pegs where jockeys change are determined by seniority, Frankie Dettori held the No.1 peg on the Flat for many years, but it might well surprise you to hear that AP McCoy wasn’t the No.1 over jumps, that honour went to Jimmy McCarthy.
The Weighing Room can be a tense place before big events, and by the nature of the sport, tragedy through injury to it’s participants is as much a part of the ritual as is triumph. UK Jockeys’ valet Chris Maude reminisces:
“… I tied Peter Toole’s cap for him at Aintree on Grand National day then watched as he took that horrific fall that left him in a coma for 25 days. That was the worst day, but the best was when he came into the Weighing Room at Plumpton to see everyone…”
With racing at Aintree starting today and The Grand National on Saturday, spare a thought for the unsung heroes behind the scenes who are making sure everyone has the right clothes on and weighs out at the correct weight!