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McCoy's plea to give young jockeys an easier ride over their size

By Claire McNeilly

Tony McCoy says it is time to raise the minimum weights at which jockeys are asked to ride.

The retired National Hunt champion is concerned at an increase in the number of jockeys 'flipping' - the practice of inducing vomiting after eating in order to make the regulated weight for a race.

Ulsterman McCoy - who resorted to very strict methods of keeping his weight down during a hugely successful two-decade career - said the problem with jockeys was only going to get worse as human beings in general are becoming bigger.

"Racing must be the only sport in which people are expected to perform while hardly eating," said the 41-year-old, who added that jockeys have always been attempting novel ways of regulating their weight.

"In the past, jockeys would resort to 'pee-pills' but, thankfully, that's gone now," said the 20-times champion jockey.

"It wasn't healthy and it had to stop as the drug-testing procedures would detect diuretics."

McCoy, who quit racing in April after riding a record 4,348 winners during a phenomenal career in the saddle, maintained his average racing weight of 10st 10lb by living on a diet of sugary tea, jelly babies and the odd jaffa cake.

The father-of-two, who now claims to "eat like a horse", also swore by hot baths as a weight-loss technique.

"Virtually every morning, I would get into a scalding bath," said McCoy.

"How long I stayed in it, how much I topped it up and how much I suffered to shed an extra pound depended on the weight I had to ride at."

The minimum riding weight for flat jockeys is a mere 8st - to include clothes, boots and saddle.

For National Hunt (ie, over fences) it's a heftier 9st 8lbs.

Apart from vomiting and diuretics, jockeys have been known to use laxatives, diet pills, smoking, saunas and sweat suits to control their weight.

Some jockeys vomited so regularly, they were said to have lost their teeth through the repeated effects of acidic bile.

Now the riders' union, the Professional Jockeys' Association, has issued guidelines reminding its members about the importance of proper nutrition.

Fried food and sugar-based drinks are discouraged, and random inspections will now be made to ensure jockeys are eating the right things between races.

But McCoy believes the raising of minimum weights would be more effective, and help up-and-coming jockeys succeed in the Sport of Kings.

"Last month I visited the apprentices' school in Kildare, where 35 lads were starting, and estimated that no more than five could possibly become flat jockeys; the rest were just too big," he said.

"It's time the weight range was changed to give more lads a chance."

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