The Turf Club resurrects apprentice jockey school -By Hemal Ashar

Posted on - 22 Feb 2023

Mahalaxmi racecourse reopens facility for aspiring professional jockeys; school in salubrious surroundings aims for all-round growth of students

The catchy number, We wanna go back, back, back to school again*, played in the background as the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) released video footage of its new Apprentice Jockey School (AJS) in Mumbai. The facility was inaugurated on February 12. It is located on the way to the swimming pool for equines in the Mahalaxmi racecourse stable area. The racecourse did have a school earlier, near the office on the way to the Mahalaxmi helipad. The school was shut down years ago. This one has opened after approximately 10 years, after delays due to different reasons.

Riding instructor and ex-jockey J E Peirera said, "We have 12 boys living and training in the AJS. The school has accommodation for the trainee apprentice boys. It also has amenities for everyday living. The boys have access to a kitchen with a fridge, microwave, dining table, all necessary cutlery, separate bathrooms and washrooms." Most of the boys come from Rajasthan and Matheran.

The training programme will range from a minimum of one year to two years maximum, depending on the ability of the student. This is with an aim to make these boys into licensed apprentice jockeys/professional jockeys. The accent is on all-round growth, and the salubrious environment of learning offers table tennis, exercise bars, rope climbing, a tennis and volleyball court. Peirera said, "We will also be providing skipping ropes and dumb bells, to build endurance and strength." The school is going to set up a mini library with an assortment of fiction and non-fiction books and a carrom board.

When mid-day visited the school on a late morning, trees cut the sting from the harsh heat. The boys had finished their morning training. Assistant Instructor and former jockey Jethu Singh and racing official Harsha G S showed mid-day around the school. The boys demonstrated impressive upper body strength on the climbing rope and a pull up bar with some clean chin ups.

Peirera added, "The school has a fully qualified English and Maths teacher. We also have a teacher for judo, helping the students develop strength and flexibility. The food is as prescribed by a dietician." Peirera credited club Chairman S R Sanas and committee for "full faith" in this project, adding, "Shujaat Hussain (Chief Stipendiary Steward) and team were the ‘main brains* behind the school." The advanced riders amongst the 12, have access to riding meant for all trainers at morning trackwork giving them vast exposure. The experts said, "There are plans for senior ex-jockeys and current jockeys to take some classes here to help these boys become better riders."

Chairman Sanas said he was "delighted at the re-opening of the school. We have had some champions come out of it with flying colours in the past and they gone on to make a name for themselves. I am sure these 12 boys that have joined will make us proud as well."

Ram H Shroff, committee member, Chairman of Stewards said, "It is great to see the apprentice jockey school back at the RWITC after 10 years. Some of the current crop of India*s best have come from the RWITC. Jockeys are a crucial part of our racing, and they need great skill in different aspects of horsemanship. They will also learn basic etiquette, body strengthening and communication skills."

Adil Gandhy, former chairman of the old AJS said, "If racing has to continue, the Club needs a fresh set of young jockeys every three to four years as many jockeys either retire or move to other centres. The new set replaces them. It is necessary to have an apprentice school with a good master in charge."

Credits : mid-day