A MARATHON meeting of jockeys has called for sweeping changes to jumps races, including the abolition of starting stalls and the removal of the last jump in races in Victoria.
Yesterday's meeting was held to find ways to tackle problems in the sport and enable it to continue. Three horses died at last week's Warrnambool carnival, leading to the suspension of jumps racing in Victoria.
All cross-country jockeys were interviewed individually yesterday and then voted en masse on radical suggestions to save the sport. They backed suspending hurdle racing and continuing only with steeplechasing until the end of this winter and then holding a review of the changes.
"We are not going to walk away from careers that so many have put so much into," Victorian Jockeys Association chief executive Des O'Keefe said. "We have a number of outstanding suggestions that will go to the table for RVL (Racing Victoria) to look at, and I think it is the most positive move we have ever made."
Mr O'Keefe said hurdle racing should be dropped for now and steeplechases run instead.
"In England, all hurdle and steeple races are run without barriers, and we want just walk-up starts, which is another way to take the speed out of our jumping events." The meeting of all jumps jockeys, held at Moe racecourse — where the three jumps races were made flat events — also passed a motion that the final jump in all races be eliminated.
The jockeys also resolved that jumps jockeys should be re-educated in the way they ride.
Mr O'Keefe said horses jumping poorly, running far behind or that are fatigued must be withdrawn. Horses not suited to jumps racing should be eliminated from competition.
He said the 23 jockeys gathered at Moe were "determined to make jumps racing a viable prospect and believe the implementation of these changes would turn the sport around.
"It's vital that Racing Victoria consider these changes, as we believe they'll make a fundamental difference to the safety of horse and jockey," he said.A decision on the sport's future is to be made this week.
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