Friday 22 September 2017

WATCH - Joseph O'Brien pleads for rise in racing weights and discusses the staffing crisis in the industry

EXCLUSIVE

Joseph O’Brien pictured with Cheltenham hopeful Ivanovich Gorbatov in his yard in Kilkenny.
Joseph O’Brien pictured with Cheltenham hopeful Ivanovich Gorbatov in his yard in Kilkenny.
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

He may be only 23 years of age but Joseph O'Brien is a visionary like his father and his grandfather.

In less than a year, he has already trained a grade one winner over jumps, Ivanovich Gorbatov in last year's Triumph Hurdle (although the horse did run in his father's name as Joseph had yet to obtain his training licence) and a Group One on the flat, with Intricately's victory in last year's Moyglare.

His horses are flying. He bagged a double in Dundalk on Friday night and 1-2-3 in yesterday's bumper at Leopardstown.

When he looks to the future, the two-time Epsom Derby-winning jockey fears for the future of Irish jockeys.

Although hugely successful in the saddle, issues with his weight would ultimately force O'Brien to abandon his career as a rider.

He fears that Ireland will mirror what has happened in America, where the industry is reliant on overseas jockeys.

"With jockeys, the way the weights are at the minute, with Irish kids getting taller and stronger and heavier as a result, you will probably find more non-nationals as jockeys (here), like in America," he told Independent.ie

"It's probably thinking down the road a nice bit but that's the way it looks like it might go.

"Everyone knows that I had weight trouble but there are jockeys all around the country having weight trouble. I was very lucky that I was able to ride some very good horses but there are lots of people struggling like I struggled to ride lesser horses."

O'Brien believes that rising the weights would not disadvantage trainers and owners and would be a huge boost to the weighroom.

"I think that in the long run it (rising the weights) is no disadvantage to anyone," he added

"Dundalk at this time of the year for most jockeys is Probably the only time they are going to be riding unless they are travelling.

"There are several jockeys going to Dundalk once a week losing half a stone or more in the days coming up to racing.

"There is no disadvantage to horses carrying more weight in races. It can only be an advantage to jockeys healthwise.

"It's probably never going to happen but I think it's an issue that hasn't been discussed enough."

Another serious issue for the racing industry is the availability of staff.

O'Brien has around 60 people employed at his picturesque stables on Owning's Hill in Kilkenny and almost half come from outside Ireland.

"We've been very lucky because we've managed to get some very good staff. It's a huge asset to us but it is difficult.

"The racing industry as a whole is finding it tough to get staff. that's the way the thing has gone recently.

"People are getting bigger. Kids are getting taller and stronger.

"The amount of people coming into the industry is probably slowing down a little bit.

"There would be more Irish people than non-nationals.

"Without the non-nationals, the racing industry would really be struggling. It's the same across the world."

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