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By Damian Browne | Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Brownie’s Blog is the weekly personal blog of multiple Group 1 winning jockey Damian Browne. On the back of the national conversation this week about the constant stress that jockey’s find themselves under, Brownie gives his view on whether scheduling a complete break from racing for a short 'refresh' period of time is a feasible option. He also explains why it is difficult for individuals to give themselves a break on any given day to help lessen their own workload. Here is Brownie’s Blog … exclusive to HRO.

There have been a number of articles written this week regarding the supposed burn out of jockeys or, more particularly, of apprentice jockeys. One comment from a very well-respected trainer suggested that because ‘the racing game is consuming them … they are all completely fried.’

I can understand where he is coming from in general and I do sympathise with the many jockeys. Not just apprentices, doing it tough but there is a reality here which is difficult to avoid when looking at any options of racing having a break for any period of time.

I certainly don’t think we can have time off like Hong Kong does as has been suggested as a way of alleviating the pressure and the workload. I don’t know how they do it there, to be honest.

I just think if you look at it from a trainer’s point of view and their staff’s point of view … those guys still need to have wages. The owners need to have the opportunity to win prize-money to get a return on their investment, to keep the trainers happy and to pay them.

The trainers, in turn, have to pay their staff … and jockeys need to earn … so I think if there is a four to six week break, or whatever is touted as a break or rest period with no racing, it would be hard to justify to owners why their horses are in work.


Perhaps race scheduling can be looked at instead.

The night racing is obviously not a preference for the participants while I have always thought that on Sunday’s we should start at around twelve and be finished by four.

You’d like to think they could come up with a way whereby people can get back home in time to have dinner with their families … at least on a Sunday.

As has been said before, those who make these scheduling decisions don’t have to walk in the shoes of those who have to put on the show.

When topics like this are raised to hierarchy, their comeback often is you don’t have to go to those meetings which put a strain on you … but, as all of us on the ground in the industry know, it is not generally an option to say, ‘no, I just don’t want to go this week.’

As a rider, you can’t afford not to go because they will just get somebody else. It is as simple as that and you will not only lose that ride but you can possibly lose that contact moving forward … so you could be faced with a knock-on effect.

As you can see, I don’t know the answer to improving the situation.

That type of problem solving must be beyond my pay-grade.


As far as those jockeys being ‘fried’ is concerned though … I don’t know. It’s a big of an ugly word isn’t it?

From my perspective we used to have to work harder at the stables when we were apprenticed than apprentices do nowadays … but there wasn’t as much racing and, with the more racing they have today, comes the media commitments, often excessive travel and bits and pieces like that apart from just riding the horse … which all adds to the workload and stress.

It’s a hard one. Back in the day we worked harder but we didn’t have as much to deal with as the present-day riders.

I guess the bottom line is you just have to be tough to be in this industry.

It is one of those industries in which you can work or as little as you want depending on how much success you are chasing.


Ethan Brown, who previously won the Victorian Apprentice Premiership and recently clinched back to back ‘Rising Star’ titles in Victoria, was the apprentice who sparked much of last week’s debate with his decision to step away from the game and re-evaluate his future.

While his decision attracted significant comment, I think most young riders do go through the whole process of evaluating is it all worth it? Why am I putting my body through this? The must be some easier way of making a living? I’m sure they have all thought about that at some stage particularly if they have got weight issues.

I think that is pretty natural and understandable behaviour.

I know, myself, when I was only twenty or so I went out and worked elsewhere and I quickly realised it was a bit easier riding a horse than what I was doing in the workplace.

I’m not saying it will be the case for Ethan Brown particularly, because he did want to leave the game once before, but I think in most cases where young riders have had a taste of racing and then feel like a break … and there is nothing wrong with getting away for a while … they do ultimately realise what a great industry racing is and I would say something like ninety percent of them come back.


And jockeys make decisions about their future for different reasons.

Sam Weatherley, for example, who had been with Chris Waller, has just returned to New Zealand. He said he loves racing in Sydney but the overriding factor in his decision was purely and simply his homesickness.

A similar thing happened to me when I went to Melbourne and I was there for two years. I had a ride in the Melbourne Cup and things were going ok … but, in the end, I just probably wasn’t ready for Melbourne at that time being just a young boy from the South Island of New Zealand.

Sam is probably in a similar position. It is quite a pressured environment in Sydney. It is a lot to take in and you cope the best you can but, while you do have this feeling that you would prefer to be somewhere else, that can be a major factor in your decision making.

I think Sam is going home to ride for his father again. He obviously wants to be close to his family and the move will do him good.

As with that ninety percent though, that is not to say he doesn’t come back some time in the future and I would be very surprised if we have seen the last of him over in Australia.

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Damian Browne steps into a new role next week as he takes on the position as manager of Sean Cormack. For trainers wanting to engage Cormack's services from next week, Damian can be contacted on 0403730992
Damian Browne
Damian Browne
Sean Cormack

Photos: Graham Potter
Sean Cormack

Photos: Graham Potter
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