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Slings and arrows: Jockeys wage a battle for fee increase

“Pay them what the ride is worth,” a wag commented after hearing that Victorian jockeys are seeking a wage increase at a period when the Australia-wide riding standard is particularly high.

For instance, Brenton Avdulla and Hugh Bowman took the honours at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday following a Flemington blitz by Craig Williams a week earlier.

Competitive: Brenton Avdulla on Dreamforce and Blake Shinn on Invinzabeel fight out the finish of the Winter Stakes.

Photo: AAP

Still, even with three winners Avdulla, who is set for his first Sydney premiership and still on an improving curve, and Bowman, who notched a double and confirmed why he is listed as the best jockey in the world, didnt overwhelm the opposition.

For instance, the effort of James McDonald on Star Of Monsoon at Rosehill showed the special touch that will challenge Avdulla for the top spot next season.

And Blake Shinns ride on Invinzabeel in the Winter Stakes was a pearl from an outside gate. Yes, Avdulla beat him on Dream Force from an even wider barrier, but he was navigating a better horse – one superbly tuned by John Thompson, who is showing the generations of horse lore coming down from his grandfather old Vic Thompson, who trained at Victoria Park before it became a Sydney car factory, and young Vic, who laid the foundation for Crown Lodge for the Ingham brothers and now Godolphin.

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Down south, Williams rode an unprecedented six winners at Flemington on July 8 at a time when strike action is brewing over the jockeys riding fee.

Apparently at Caulfield on Saturday, 33 jockeys had meeting, while at the Wodonga races a similar number discussed a rise because of the more demanding work load – thus an addition to the $200 per mount they currently receive, established in 2015. Racing Victoria figures the kickback from increased prizemoney is sufficient for any perceived deficit.

There was a time when the “sling”, or present gauged by the financial result to connections, was the major source of jockeys income. The return from prizemoney was a minor consideration. But now it has all come from jockey fees and percentages.

Only last year NSW jockeys went from $187 per engagement to $200, worthwhile considering the work ethic of our journeyman jockey Jeff Penza, who has had over 1000 rides so far this season, superior by over a 100 to Avdulla, the next busiest. Penza also eclipsed his 968 mounts for the 2016-17 season.

Penza travels far, wide and often for his stipend and notched a Wyong double on Saturday, maintaining a standard as necessary out of town as the metropolitan areas.

Of course, big league hoops are under a microscope, and Williams, weight-for-age when it comes to verbal as well as saddle, is a prime example. Due to what is deemed a substandard performance by him, the term “Willowed” has arisen.

But that happens to the exceptional: anything short is regarded as a subject of criticism. And, historically, horse players have led the way, although their volume is lower these days. Like any sportsmen – and jockeys should rate with the most elite – they are prone to form lapses. Why does Buddy Franklin miss a goal in front when he can produce miracles off the foot?

Still, Sydney looks set for a prime period for hoops, with those mentioned here earlier plus Tim Clark, Tye Angland and Jason Collett making them work for their percentages, and Kerrin McEvoy and Glyn Schofield set to return.

Obviously though the incomparable ride of the week was apprentice Akira Kajiya at Cowra on Saturday. Kajiya lost his stirrup irons mid-race and, riding like the last of a straight-backs, managed to get Its Business Time home down the outside of the track in a photo finish before being ditched.

Kajiya should get a $50 penalty rate for every time his backside was bounced on the saddle, and a pain allowance for the fall. If the figure is short of the $200 plus percentage of Avdullas win on Dream Force in the $150,000 Winter Stakes, Racing NSW should make up the difference.

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