Opposition Grows Against Jockey’s Safety Vests

By: Ryan Clark
July 18th, 2011

Victorian jockeys have stepped up their opposition to the controversial safety vests and have called on the Australian Racing Board to conduct a full review.

Chief executive of the Victorian jockey’s association Des O’Keefe says he has an appointment in the second week of August with his counterpart on the ARB, Andrew Harding.

“A number of riders have expressed concerns about the number of back and neck injuries,” O’Keeffe said.

“They need assurance the vests are not contributing to these injuries.

“They see Michelle Payne, Danny Brereton, Neville Wilson and Darren Gauci with serious neck and spine injuries.”

“Yet (Sydney chairman of stewards) Ray Murrihy says three riders in Sydney in the last six months have been saved from serious injury because of the vest.”

It’s part of a growing movement opposing the vests and O’Keefe is planning to pass on all the concerns from his constituents.

“It is time for a review. I am not aware of any studies since 2007,” he said.

“Who sets the standards, are there other options are questions that need to be asked.”

As the rules stand the safety vests are a mandatory item for all jockeys with strict standards in place.

Any jockey found to either not be wearing a vest or to have tampered with it faces hefty fines.

Alf Mathews is a former jockey and he says the issue lies with the rigidity of the vests which can cause new problems upon impact.

“Who issued the standards? Who said jockeys had to have them. Where are the figures on falls?” he said.

“The vest is inappropriate. It has to be addressed urgently.”

Michelle Payne is the latest in a long line of jockeys to be found guilty of tampering with the vest, she picked up a $1000 fine for removing the rear tail piece..

Darren Gauci is another strong supporter of the inquiry, he sustained a serious back injury after a fall at Mornington and isn’t convinced whether the vest would help or hinder in future scenarios.

“I don’t have the figures, but there seem to be more neck and back injuries,” he said.

“In my case it would have made no difference. It was the way I landed. I fell on my backside facing the opposite way to where I was going, like doing up my shoelaces.”

Gauci faces a long wait on the sidelines as he undergoes extensive rehab treatment for his fractured vertebrae.

“It will be three more months before I can think about riding,” he said.

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