Last Saturday, the inaugural National Jockeys Trust Appeal was held at Flemington, with the TAB leading the way in the fundraising stakes by donating 2% of tote turnover from bets placed on course. The day raised over $100,000 for the Trust, with donations still being received.
The National Jockeys Trust (NJT) was established by the Australian Jockeys Association in 2004 to provide emotional and financial support for current and former jockeys who have encountered life changing, career ending injuries and who are in need of assistance, as well as their families. Since its inception, the Trust has provided over $4.3 million in assistance to 430 jockeys and the families of jockeys who have been injured or killed for doing what they love.
There are 840 registered jockeys in Australia. 50% of those are earning less than $60,000 per year. Every year, 40% of them will have a fall that will prevent them from riding for 5 weeks or more. 5% of these falls will be career-ending. Most will have their own insurances and depending the situation, Workcover might kick in. But sometimes it’s just simply not enough.
Every ride is a risk (Racing Photos)
NJT Appeal Ambassador and 24-year-old apprentice jockey Leticia Griffin was diagnosed with stage three melanoma in May 2018, and is receiving ongoing treatment. She is appreciative of the support provided by the National Jockeys Trust.
“I was really grateful the Trust was able to provide support to me during what's been the most challenging time of my life,” said Leticia. “I was delighted when I was asked to be the Ambassador, I'm really rapt be able to give something back to the NJT."
In the lead up to Saturday’s Appeal, Racing.com released a number of clips on social media to serve as a reminder of the dangerous work these jockeys do every day. It’s about the only sport, or job actually, where an ambulance follows you closely.
Scott Leckey. Elvis ‘Ricky’ Thurgood. Jack Hill. Lonny Milham. Ibrahim Gundogdu. Not to mention all the ones we’ve tragically lost along the way.
Victorian jockey Jason Benbow is another who is has experienced the support of the NJT. After being sidelined for more than six months after fracturing his T6 vertebrae in a trackwork fall at Caulfield, Jason returned to the saddle last September.
As his way of supporting his colleagues and giving back to the Trust that helped him and his family, Jason plays a feature role in the organisation of many of NJT’s fundraising events such as their popular Cricket Match and Saturday’s Appeal Raceday. But as it is in racing, with the highs must come the lows. After a win at Wangaratta on Friday followed by the success of Saturday’s event, he is now back on the sidelines nursing a fractured fibula sustained in a fall at Sale on Wednesday.
I hate the stats. Family members were jockeys. Many of my friends are jockeys. It’s my son’s dream to become one. Now, as a mum, I can appreciate why my own mother discouraged me from taking up a career in the saddle.
For a jockey, every ride is a risk. So when you next get frustrated because you didn’t like the way they rode the horse you backed, take a moment to think. Take a moment to look, to touch, to move, to breathe. Take a moment to appreciate all those things that jockeys risk every time they go out on the track.
The NJT Appeal continues for another few weeks. To find out more or to donate, head to NJT.ORG.AU