I was asked recently why there are never jockey ratings after select races in the same way there are player ratings for important football and rugby matches.
Rating jockeys’ rides might be a way of formalising the two common practices of post-race “jockey lauding” and “jockey bashing”.
As there is only one winner of a race, the lauding is usually significantly less per race than the bashing.
However, an expert who takes an objective view of a race can pick up great rides that weren’t winning ones.
For example, MJ Byleveld believes last month’s Emperor’s Palace Ride Of The Month should have gone to Bernard Fayd’Herbe for his great WSB Cape Town Met ride on Rascallion, who was only caught late.
However, horseracing viewers are notoriously subjective and while footballers are usually rated on how they performed on a given day, a jockey can be regarded at Messi level half-an-hour before being written off as useless.
Owners can be just as critical as punters, if not more so.
However, it was interesting to hear the views last week of the country’s current most successful individual owner, Nick Jonsson, who lies third on the national owners’ log behind Drakenstein Stud and the Hollywood Syndicate.
The prolific Durban-based owner, who has just landed a second successive WSB Cape Town Met, is a fine horseman in his own right having played a high level of polo.
Nick said, “Race riding is a very difficult, precise, fast-moving profession. I don’t think pe0ple really realise how difficult it is and they often criticise jockeys with no knowledge and very unfairly. I never have complaints about how any jockey rides my horse, I don’t think it is fair to complain. The jockeys have to make split second decisions so often and I find often pe0ple who complain have never sat on a horse. Having ridden all my life, horses have a mind of their own, they aren’t always the same. I am full of admiration for what jockeys do. Bearing in mind the decisions they make are normally split second ones, if there is something they might have done differently we can have a conversation around it, but I think it is unfair for people to criticise jockeys all the time on their riding. Any other thing you criticise them for I understand, but not for riding.”
To be fair on the armchair critics, the criticism is often knee jerk and often related to a losing bet i.e. the old adage about talking from the pocket, and some will later retract their harsh words when looking at the replay more objectively.
However, would jockeys ratings done for select races, in the same way player ratings are given for football and rugby matches. be feasible?
Such an excercise would probably attract a lot of interest.
Constructive criticism is welcomed by most dedicated sportsmen. It gives them something to aim at so they can raise the bar.
Jockey ratings could perhaps be done by an astute ex-jockey, who would perhaps have greater insight in to how a jockey’s ride aided or disadvantaged a horse.
However, the massive detraction to the excercise is that, unlike in football and rugby where the individual is to a large extent in control of what he does, the chief athlete in racing is not the jockey but the horse.
The jockeys performance is limited by the athlete he is riding.
For example, how would one compare, through means of ratings, a ride on a horse that is 10kg out at the weights and is beaten ten lengths to a ride on the winner who is well treated under the race’s conditions?
In conclusion, it could be a valid idea in order to stimulate conversation about a race.
However, whether it would add value to race riding and help jockeys improve is a longshot.