The Weighting Game – The Bad

By: Ryan Clark
December 22nd, 2011

While minimum weights will rise around Victoria by a kilogram on January 1st many jockeys say it will do little to curb their harsh daily routine.

As part of this discussion the practice of ‘flipping’ has once again raised its head.

Hardly a new phenomenon, flipping is to racing what the scourge of bulimia is to the modelling industry.

It’s something that we all know goes on but something that is often ignored and not seen.

Danny Nikolic is one of the few riders who will openly talk about it and given the weight increase it’s a relevant time.

Now 37 years old, Nikolic says that even with the extra kilogram allowance, without flipping he simply wouldn’t get down to the bottom weights.

“To make the weight, I’ve got to flip whenever I have to ride around 53kg,” he said.

“It’s not good for you. A lot of jockeys do it. All the French and American jockeys do it. It’s something I learned when I was in Hong Kong.

“Not many (jockeys) like talking about it, but it doesn’t worry me. Some jockeys do it too much, but I’ll only do it if I have to ride light.

“I always try to have three meals a week if I can, so I can keep them down.”

Nikolic knows what he’s doing is dangerous and says he keeps a close dialogue with his GP.

“I have a quarterly check-up with my doctor and continual blood tests to stay the best I can. If I didn’t flip I would have stopped riding in my early 20s,” he said.

John McCorkell is the raceday surgeon at Flemington and says riders need to be steered away from this type of approach.

“Long term, it is not a healthy thing whether you are a sportsman or not,” McCorkell said.

“Vomiting puts the body under stress and that cannot be good.”

That being said Racing Victoria medical officer Gary Zimmerman believes the practice may not be as common as it once was.

“(Flipping) is an extreme measure and not as common as it was 20 or 30 years ago,” Zimmerman said.

Nikolic has stated that weights would need to go up a further kilo for him to see any real change to the lifestyle he currently lives.

It’s something that’s been echoed by many others.

“I’ve got a set routine and the weights going up a kilo is not going to change it too much,” Mark Zahra said.

“It’s not going to mean I can have McDonald’s for dinner every night or I can have massive meals every night.

“Where it will make it easier is if one of (Peter) Snowden’s who would have got 53kg and I couldn’t ride, now I can ride it at 54kg, but it still means I’m going to be sweating and losing weight.

“For it to make a change for me, the minimum would have to go up to 56kg.”

This becomes even more pronounced the further you go up the jockeys list.

Steven Arnold has forged a name for himself as one of the country’s best heavyweight riders in recent years.

“This won’t make it any easier, weight-wise. I won’t be riding any lighter, but it may push up more horses into my weight range,” he said.

There are indirect benefits then for most jockeys even if some are more advantaged than others.

For Zahra it could be a case of simply getting a little bit more sleep.

“The big difference will be, instead of coming home from trackwork and heading off to the sauna for an hour, I might get the chance to have a sleep for half an hour,” he said.

“The minimum going to 54kg is still going to be a hard slog for me, but the overall fact that the weights are going to go up one kilo will make it easier.”

The new weights from January 1st 2012 across Victoria are as follows:

 

MINIMUM RIDING WEIGHTS

Caulfield and Melbourne Cups 50kg

All other Group 1 races 52kg

Group 2 races 53kg
All other races (incl Group 3 and Listed) 54kg

Night and Non-TAB meetings 55kg


MINIMUM TOPWEIGHT AT DECLARATION OF WEIGHTS

All Group 1 races

(incl Caulfield and Melbourne Cups) 58kg

All other Group races and all 2yo Races 59kg

All other races 60kg

MINIMUM TOPWEIGHT AT DECLARATION OF ACCEPTANCES

All races 58kg

 

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