Like me, I suppose most of you at some stage have declared that a jockey has hooked up your horse - the one you bet on, that is.

Whether he did or not is rarely known, except by the jockey. In the cases where it did actually happen, only the jock and his conspirators will be 'in the know'.

Often, the jockey will act on the instructions of a trainer or owner. Sometimes, he will seem to have hooked a horse when in fact he has merely ridden a bad race.

In these days of tight stewards' control, and patrol films and the like, you would think that most jockeys would refrain from trying to hoodwink the stewards. At the major city tracks, I am sure they do. But at country tracks, I am as equally certain that jockey fiddling goes on, much as it has done for years and years.

Occasionally, we'll see a case blown up in the newspaper headlines, when stewards charge a jockey with not allowing a horse to run on its merits. The jockey inevitably denies any actual fix.

But, talk to most people in racing, and they'll admit that there are all sorts of ways to give a horse a quiet run in preparation for a big hit plunge.

We all know that there are occasions when a jockey can 'hook' his mount. He gives the impression that he is allowing it to run on its merits, but in actual fact he is doing everything in his power to 'stop' it. Despite the tougher stewards' scrutiny, and all the patrol films and videos, jockeys still attempt to get away with the 'hook' and probably they succeed a lot of times.

Trainers often assist in the manipulation of form, by training 'tactics' such as running horses when they are not fit. These are known as 'conditioning' runs and occur when horses resume from spells. You only have to look at some horses in the mounting yard to know that they are in no condition to win, or even run a place. There is no concealed mystery about this - it seems to be an accepted practice, especially with stayers returning from a spell.

You will quite often hear a broadcaster say that So and So looks 'big and burly' in the parade yard and that he will 'benefit' from the run. These, then, are the open instances of where horses are placed in races without having the remotest chance of finishing in the placings. Despite this, all of them will carry some public money, often an alarmingly high amount. This is often the case when a horse is a 'favourite' with punters.

It is the cases of the concealed 'hook' that are the troublesome ones in racing. These can happen in a number of ways. The horse may be too well-fancied for its connections, and they decide to 'wait for another day' and the jockey is instructed to do all that he can to prevent the horse racing on its merits.

In another instance, a trainer might be quietly preparing a horse for a certain race. He gives it a couple of conditioning runs and knows the horse is ready to win - but it's not the right time. He tells the jockey to ride it quietly and finish well out of the money.

Then, when the time is right and the price is right, bang - the horse comes out and wins.

I remember a case a few years back when the Melbourne stewards pounced on such an incident. The horse was a 33-1 chance and finished way down the track - but obviously something about the manner in which the horse was ridden attracted their attention. They probed the run, and as a result, there were some penalties handed out although trainer and jockey denied the allegations of having 'pulled' the horse.

The average punter will never know all that goes on in racing. Today, there are so many races, so many horses, that goodness knows what is going on especially on country tracks, and more especially those not covered by TAB.

When looking at the performances of jockeys, rather than horses, the punter seeking enlightenment should aim his attention at a number of pertinent aspects. Videos are helpful in analysing a complete race. You can zero in from the start on any horse and watch it throughout the journey. One or two viewings of a race should be enough to eliminate doubts about a deliberately bad ride, or ingrain such doubts into your mind.

Pay close attention to the start of a race. One of the best-known ways in which a jockey can ruin a horse's prospects is at the start, when he deliberately throws his weight backwards instead of forward, thus impeding the horse's leap from the barriers. A neatly-done slow getaway can lose a horse anything from a length to 6 lengths. A good jockey will not make it too obvious; he'll do it just enough for the horse to miss the kick by a length or so, enough for it to be squeezed out of a prominent position early.

He can then attempt to make ground quickly, in the process 'using up' the horse's energy, or settle back in the rear bunch, from which position he has a host of alternatives. He can stay there and run into 'dead ends' or he can make a forward run very wide out and have the horse parked six and seven deep for 800 m or so. It is unusual for a horse, no matter how fit, to sustain such a run and the animal would be a spent force once pressure was applied.

If a jockey has a fit horse racing rearwards, he could still be in some bother preventing it win, despite having perhaps 'missed the start' on it by a length or two. What does he do? Well, the accepted practice is to find a blocked run. This isn't too hard. You merely track through a few horses and make sure you are directly behind one of them. Jockeys usually know which horses are likely to fade in the final 200-300m and sitting behind a horse like this is a guarantee that when he does buckle your horse is going to cop the backwash as the horse in front weakens.

Another tactic is to make your final run too soon. Instead of waiting back in the field until the home turn is reached, the jockey pushes his mount forward with, say, 600-700m to run. Usually, he will make his run wide out and he could be sitting at least three out, vying for the lead with the final bend being negotiated. The sharp move forward causes the horse to be found wanting in the last 200 m.

The cleverest moves, though, in the 'hooking' game are the ones that nobody notices. Get yourself buried back in the field and pump your arms furiously. Wave the whip around without really touching your horse, and - if necessary drop the whip. There is little the stewards can do about dropped whips - the rider just says he did it accidentally.

Then there's the instances of taking your horse to the inside of a crowded field when you know darned well that it hates being surrounded by other horses, and is always reluctant to go through narrow gaps.

The following list contains just some of the ways in which jockeys can put the 1 slow' on a mount. There may well be many others that only jockeys know about - so if some retired hoop would like to get in touch with us, we'd be delighted to publish them!


  1. Missing the start. As we have explained, the jockey deliberately throws his weight backwards as the gates open. This has the effect of preventing the horse from getting into stride immediately. Some horses can also be 'reefed' and they will then jump in the air as the gates spring back, thus losing ground.
  2. Going for an inside run. The jockey goes for an inside run that isn't there. He chooses a run between another horse and the running rail and inevitably gets checked doing so.
  3. Running into the rail. Some jockeys are past masters at actually letting their mounts brush the running rail. This gives the horse such a whack that he is put off stride and becomes unbalanced.
  4. The three-abreast trick. A jockey forces his mount to race head-and-head for the lead with another horse or two. The favourite ploy is to be the one on the outside of the trio because the energy needed for this very tough style of racing leaves the horse 'finished' turning for home. He can also be pushed up so fast early that his breathing is affected.
  5. Following a poor horse. By following a horse which is considered to have little chance, the jockey puts his own horse in a disadvantageous position when entering the straight. The little-fancied horse is likely to drop right back on him and check him. He then has too much ground to make up.
  6. Riding upside down. What happens here is that a jockey, claiming to be a victim of circumstance, takes his mount to the front when he knows it is a horse that has to be ridden from behind to win. Vice-versa, he can strangle a natural front-runner back in the field.
  7. Racing wide. Some jockeys manage to get themselves trapped deep, even though their horse has an inside barrier! Horses forced to race wide cover more ground than rivals inside them and usually weaken under pressure in the final 300m.
  8. Phantom whip hitting. This is the whip ride you have when you are not having a whip ride. The jockey makes it seem as if he is thrashing his mount when, in fact, the whip makes contact with his riding boot, or the saddle cloth, but not the horse.
  9. The smother. Easily worked in big fields, the jockey merely allows his mount to 'take it easy in the early rush, and then allows him to become smothered up well back in the field. He will claim that he had I nowhere to go' in the final stages. The horse, meantime, has been given a quiet run and is primed for a winning hit next time out.
  10. Failing to make ground. This is part and parcel of the smother. The opportunity arises for a jockey to make ground on his mount, but he doesn't accept it. In consequence, his horse loses a vital chance to be in a prominent position at a Key part of the race.

In saying all this, we are not accusing jockeys of deliberately pulling these tactics on a widespread basis. Most times, a horse loses because it isn't good enough, or because the jockey rides poorly but without intent to wrongfully 'hook' his mount (after all, jockeys are only human).

But, it goes without saying, that some horses are 'slowed' – not by drugs but by human intervention. This is what you cannot take into account when you study form; you can only assume that all is going to happen as it should happen in a race and you must ignore any possibility of 'fixed' rides or 'doped' horses.

By Des Green