When I first started going racing in the early eighties I had little comprehension of all the various roles people have within the industry. As my passion for the sport grew, so did my interest in all things racing. I have now attended 50 of the 60 courses and intend to get the full house up in 2020. A couple of years ago I retired from my full-time role as an Occupational Counsellor for the Metropolitan Police and was determined to use my spare time giving back to a sport that has given and continues to give me so much pleasure. So, imagine my delight when I landed a role working in the Weighing Room at Newbury and it is now my absolute pleasure to share my knowledge with fellow enthusiasts.
The Weighing Room is the central nerve centre of a race meeting with various officials on duty, such as Clerk of the Course, Clerk of the Scales, Judge, Starters, Stewards, Vet’s, Doctors, Physiotherapist, Racecourse Announcers, Valets and of course jockeys. They are backed up by the Newbury Staff team who manage declarations, colour bags, jockey exit and entry, trophy collection and photo finish information. In addition there are the people who issue the number cloths and insert the timers into said cloths and by no means least the catering staff who look after the food needs of jockeys and officials.
In the first two hours before the first race, the stable staff will come in and declare the horses, as well as state what is to happen if a horse sheds a shoe before the race. It is also at this point that they give us the colour bag which is taken into the Valets. The Declarations Clerk has to ensure this information is accurately transferred to worksheets and given to the various officials 45 minutes before the start of the race. In addition, non-runners, jockey changes also have to be notified.
My role is to ensure the colour bags get to the correct valet, there tends to be three to four on a race day and then to respond to a request for collection of said bag by stable staff after racing.
Once racing begins there are set times for jockeys to leave the weighing room and my job is to assist the timely procession by first ringing a 5-minute warning bell and then to ring a jockeys out bell. The BHA rule is for jockeys to leave the weighing room 13 minutes before the start of the race.
Before this the jockeys have to weigh out. The valets will assist the jockeys in making sure they have the right colours and equipment. The jockeys then collect their number cloth and present themselves to the Clerk of The Scales for Weighing out.
The Clerk of the Scales is in overall charge of proceedings and manages all aspects of BHA procedures, such as jockeys weighing in and out, colour changes, jockey changes, non-runners, notification of headgear, such as blinkers etc and in conjunction with the judge the official result. Results are only declared after the required number of jockeys have weighed in.
The Clerk of the Scales notifies our team of how many are required to weigh in at the end of a race and we inform the jockeys of requirements as they come back in.
Once racing has started the Weighing Room is a very busy place with a constant stream of jockeys weighing out for the start of a race, jockeys weighing in at the end of the race, stable staff and trainers collecting equipment to saddle up their horses and collecting colour bags. There could also perhaps be a stewards enquiry, a doctor assessment of jockeys who have fallen during the race and requests for jockeys to attend race presentations.
When I attended as a just a punter I used to think that the 30/35 minutes between racing was ample. However, I now realise it can be extremely tight for all concerned.
I have the absolute honour of going into the Jockey room as part of my role and love the banter that goes on, (sorry no gossip the golden rule what is said there stays in there). What I will say is one of the strangest requests I had was from a TV presenter (who shall remain nameless) who required a safety pin to help with a dress malfunction, so thanks to the valet who came to her rescue.
Anyway in finishing this article I hope this has given you a little bit of insight into some of the work that goes on behind the scenes. Newbury, (as do most course), do various behind the scenes tours, so if you get a chance take advantage of one of these when you come racing.