The jockey shortage threatening this weekend's races in Tasmania highlights the need for increased protection for the country's riders, the Australian Jockeys' Association (AJA) said today.
The state's racing authorities have been forced to send out an urgent SOS to available interstate riders to fill vacancies for Sunday's Hobart meeting.
AJA chairman Ross Inglis said the financial pressures placed on jockeys is leading to the mass exodus of riders throughout the country and directly impacting on Tasmania's ability to run all scheduled races.
"In the past nine years, jockey numbers have declined 43 per cent. If jockeys are not provided basic protections more of them will leave the sport, putting the ongoing viability of the industry at risk," Inglis said.
"With jockeys currently expected to personally finance their insurance, travel, equipment and airfares while averaging little more than $50,000, it is hardly surprising there are insufficient riders to run all scheduled races.
"Tasmania has just lost one of its top jockeys, Corey Kingston, who has had to make a career change because it simply isn't financially viable for him to continue in the sport anymore, and unfortunately his case isn't unique."
The AJA has set out a plan to safeguard the country's 860 jockeys. Under the plan one per cent of race money would be directed to the AJA for a jockey welfare fund.
The money would be used to cover jockeys' compulsory public liability premiums, fund a national personal accident scheme for jockeys and support jockeys and their families in times of financial hardship due to death, illness and injury through the National Jockeys' Trust.
"It is unfortunate that the shortage of riders has escalated this far, but we are optimistic that the racing boards will act to implement what is required to safeguard the viability of this industry," Inglis said.
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