Protecting the Integrity & Reputation of Irish Horseracing

Integrity Portal

Saunas on Irish Racecourses to remain closed permanently

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has today announced that the saunas in all weighrooms across Irish racecourses will remain closed permanently for jockeys from early May and the current 3lbs body protector allowance in place will increase by 1lb to become a 4lbs safety allowance.


Saunas within the weighrooms of Irish Racecourses have been closed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. The recommendation for an increase of 1lb to the body protector allowance to create a safety allowance of 4lbs follows extensive research by IHRB Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Jennifer Pugh, and her team. This will be introduced to assist in alleviating many of the concerns of Dr. Pugh and jockeys regarding dehydration and is a move which has been endorsed by the Directors of the IHRB and is supported by the Irish Jockeys Association.


The additional 1lb towards the safety allowance will be introduced alongside increased nutritional support and long-term development of individualised minimum riding weights for every jockey, in consultation with the Jockeys Association. A minimum riding weight is already in place for apprentice jockeys in Ireland.


Speaking on the new changes to be introduced, Dr. Pugh said: “Following a thorough consultative process through the cross-industry Jockey Supports Working Group set up by HRI and subsequently with the Irish Jockeys Association, I am confident the correct solution to the difficult issue of jockey weights and use of rapid weight loss in the sauna has been reached. 


“While this decision is a significant culture change for the jockeys, medical evidence regarding dehydration immediately before race riding and the longer term effects of weight management no longer support the methods previously used. Jockeys have adapted incredibly well over the last two years with the closure of the saunas for infection control purposes. The introduction of 48 hour declarations and the 2lb increase in the weights since March 2020, which was made permanent last December, were beneficial changes arising from the pandemic. However, it is clear from our research that a significant number of jockeys continue to dehydrate on race day to make weight and the increase in a safety allowance at the scales aims to reduce this along with ensuring appropriate riding equipment and racing tack can be used.  

“Alongside these changes comes a commitment to increase nutritional education and resources to assist jockeys in making healthy choices and see a move away from the dependence on dehydration as the main method used to make weight.  A review and expansion of jockey supports both on and off the racecourse is also underway. I cannot overemphasise the importance of these announcements for the long-term health and wellbeing of jockeys.”


Andrew Coonan, Irish Jockeys Association (IJA) secretary said: “Riders have adapted very well to the saunas being closed due to Covid-19 for the last two years but nobody should underestimate the difficulty this has created for them. In reality, many riders would like to see the saunas reopened but we have to be guided by the Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Pugh, who has, since last September, worked closely with the Irish Jockeys Association in doing what is best for all riders in the short and longer term.


“In light of the clear medical evidence of the negative affect of excess dehydration, the committee of the IJA were clear that the increased 1lb at the scales and a commitment to enhance the supports available to riders when saunas are closed was the best option available.”


Professional Flat Jockey, Shane Foley added: “This is really for the benefit of jockeys’ health. In this day and age, I think everyone is getting healthier and going forward this move is going to help everybody.


“Going into the sauna was a part of a jockey’s life, so it is going to be different in that regard, but we haven’t had this facility for almost two years and now that the saunas are closed there will be a generation coming behind that will never have relied on them. With all the research that is there to support this move it is a plus that we are starting to act professionally and like the athletes that we are.”


Professional National Hunt Jockey, Denis O’Regan, said: “The raising of weights and removal of the sauna is a very progressive step from the IHRB. We are very grateful to them and to Dr. Jennifer Pugh for implementing this change, which can only improve jockeys’ wellbeing.”


The British Horseracing Authority have announced today that they will also increase their Safety Allowance for jockeys to 4lbs in addition to an across-the-board 2lbs rise in the published weights.

Copyright © 2018, I.H.R.B, All Rights Reserved.