Like all professional athletes, Kentucky Derby Jockeys give it their all and put in a lot of effort into their training sessions, diets, and health in order to compete in “The Race For The Roses” (aka The Kentucky Derby). Held annually on the first Saturday of May, The Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky and is also nicknamed as “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” for its approximate duration.
The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of The American Triple Crown (with The Preakness Stakes and The Belmont Stakes being the second and third legs respectively) and also has the most history and significance of the three legs. The reason for this is due to The Kentucky Derby being held every (without any cancellations or interruptions) since 1875. It was even held during major world events like The Great Depression and both World War I and World War II.
Just competing in the first leg of The American Triple Crown is a huge honor itself for Kentucky Derby Jockeys. They make a decent amount of money but compared to professional athletes of other sports, there salaries are not as much. To become one of the Kentucky Derby Jockeys competing in “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports”, it takes a lot grit, determination, mental toughness, and discipline in
Now, with all of that being said, here are 6 Revelations On What It Takes To Be One Of The Kentucky Derby Jockeys:
1. The Kentucky Derby Weight Requirement:
According to Animal Planet, the average jockey has a light but athletic build and most weigh anywhere from between 108 to 118 pounds. Their small athletic builds enable the jockeys to ride the racehorses with hindering the animals’ speed. However, Kentucky Derby Jockeys have a weight limit of 126 pounds, which includes each of the jockey’s body weight and their equipment.
As reported by Bustle, the maximum weight limit 126 pounds means that Kentucky Derby Jockeys cannot weigh more than 119 pounds (the average weight of a boy between the ages of 14 to 15 years old). This is since the gear of the Kentucky Derby Jockeys weighs about seven pounds.
2. There’s No Height Requirement At The Kentucky Derby:
As stated earlier, Kentucky Derby Jockeys have a weight requirement of no more 126 pounds (includes both the jockey’s body weight and gear) in order to be allowed to compete. Fortunately, Kentucky Derby Jockeys aren’t also subjected to a height requirement too.
In general, jockeys are short in stature as a result of their weight restrictions. According to the same report from Animal Planet, jockeys are typically somewhere between 4’10 and 5’6 in terms of height.
3. The Intense Pressure To Meet The Extreme Weight Requirements (Pt. 1):
If any of the Kentucky Derby Jockeys weigh over the limit of 126 pounds (which combines both the jockey’s body weight and gear), he will not be allowed to compete in the race. This strict weight limit puts tons of pressure on Kentucky Derby Jockeys to stay small and/or shed some crucial pounds off.
As a result of this enormous pressure (that jockeys face when competing any race), jockeys will participate in extremely high risk activities in order to control their weight. A 1995 Study on jockeys’ health by the Chicago Rehabilitation Institute revealed that 30 percent of riders forced themselves to throw up in order so they can loose the weight, while 69 percent skipped meals, 67 percent sweated off in the sauna, 34 percent used diuretics, and 14 percent took laxatives.
4. The Intense Pressure To Meet The Extreme Weight Requirements (Pt. 2):
As stated earlier, the 1995 study by Chicago Rehabilitation Institute revealed that 30 percent of riders threw up (also referred to as “flipping” by jockeys) in order to loose the weight. Jockeys purge themselves in a specially designed “heaving bowl” and the use of them remains largely taboo. The 2004 HBO documentary “Jockey” caused a stir for displaying footage of those bowls at the Churchill Downs race track.
Although the heaving bowls were moved from the Churchill Downs race track over 10 years ago, they are still a regular (but unspoken) sight at many race tracks in America. In an interview with CNN, retired jockey and current manager of the Jockeys Guild (the riders’ welfare association) Jeff Johnston described the heaving bowls as “a square porcelain bowl with a hole to flush down the vomit. They’re usually in their own cubicle at the end of a line of toilets.”
The practice of “flipping” has resulted in many jockeys suffering form severe health problems/consequences. Since the age of nine, the late Hall of Fame Jockey Randy Romero (see in the photo below) threw up almost five or six times a day, which severely damaged his kidneys, according to a Fox News story.
5. Strict Diet:
With strict weight requirements (for all racing events), people must wonder what Kentucky Derby Jockeys’ diets consist of to fuel their bodies. A report revealed that riders tend to have three complete meals per day, all of which consists of lean proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, and low-fat dairy foods. However, every jockey is different in terms of their diets.
Victor Espinoza, the oldest jockey to ever win the Triple Crown, revealed in an interview that his diet doesn’t have many restrictions and he eats almost everything. However, Espinoza consumes only one meal per day and keeps his portion sizes smaller than usual.
6. Intense Workout Routines:
Besides the time they spend training and riding the horses, all jockeys have intense workout routines they do to maintain fitness. In the same interview, Espinoza stated that his workout routine (which he does five times a week) consists of a three-mile run up and down a hill, low-weight, high-rep weight training, and swimming. However, in the build up to a race, he’ll almost double his training regime but will stop and do only light exercises and stretches two to three days before the event.