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Similar to an apprentice in any other walk of life, an Apprentice jockey (to give them the correct term), is a trainee jockey learning their trade from the bottom up.
Anyone is welcome to apply to the British Racing School (aged 16-22) and if accepted they go through a two-year Level Two Diploma (full time). On completion the lucky ones will then be attached full time to a racing stable (where they will be paid) to continue their apprenticeship, assuming they pass the two-week course that decides whether they will be given their apprentice licence.
Once with a yard (indented used to be the term), they are allowed to ride in certain races – some will be for apprentices only, others will be against experienced professional jockeys.
Each year a new Champion apprentice is crowned for riding the most winners and can be the launch of a highly successful career. Frankie Dettori (1989), Jason Weaver (1993), Paul Hanagan (2002), Ryan Moore (2003), Tom Queally (2004), and William Buick (joint winner in 2008) all went on to become household names. David Egan is the latest on the winners’ roster after 2017 and will hopefully go on to be as good as his predecessors.
From a punter’s perspective, a good apprentice is a friend to have as they take weight off your selection while still having the skills required from the saddle.
To give Apprentices a chance to learn their trade and to win races, each apprentice has an allowance or a claim. They all start with a seven pound claim which means that if their ride is expected to carry 10 stone they can weigh out at nine stone seven (for example), which is supposed to balance out the chance of that horse with a better weight negating the lack of experience from the saddle.
Once they reach 20 winners the claims reduces to five pounds, and from 50 winners to 95 winners it reduces further to three pounds.
Only three women have been crowned Champion Apprentice – Hayley Turner was the first in 2005, and was followed by Amy Ryan (2012) and Josephine Gordon (2016).