By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: TSN Radio sports broadcaster Brook Ward did a riveting, in-depth interview with leading jockey Richard Hamel last Saturday afternoon on Team 1040. In case you missed, here are some of the highlights:
BW: Did the recent smoke and haze from the fires in B.C. have an effect on the horses and jockeys?
RH: Actually, it was pretty hard on us and the horses were having problems as well. It’s a more intense workout. The riders can get a little light-headed because of a lack of oxygen. It hits you hardest after a race.
BW: How did you manage to overcome the elements?
RH: On any given day I can lose half a pound per race. On BC Festival Day I rode in 10 races and it was really smoky due to the fires. I probably drank four bottles of water that day; the smoke was really hard to deal with. It knocked me out for a couple of days.
BW: What goes on in the jock’s room on a day like that?
RH: You get about 10 minutes between races. That’s when you wash the dirt off from the previous race, get yourself cleaned up a little bit with a bucket of water and a sponge, soap yourself off real quick and get ready for the next race. I’m 48 years old and no spring chicken anymore. Those long days take their toll on me. But you eat well, drink lots of fluids and then get back to it.”
BW: Not to mention it’s a dangerous profession …
RH: Yeah, you have to be fit. Once you start the race it’s not like you can stop and get off the mount, right? You have to be able to make the whole course. I’ve seen riders come back from a race and once they get off their horse they collapse because they’re so exhausted. I would say adrenalin keeps a jockey going. It’s almost like poetry when the horse is running and giving you everything he has. You’re with the animal every stride and it gives you an amazing feeling.
BW: How much longer will you continue riding?
RH: I don’t know. I’ve probably quit 1,000 times and each time I say I’ll give it another day. I’ve got arthritis in one knee and one ankle. It depends on how my body holds out. I really enjoy my job, though. I like winning races and love making the crowd happy. The bigger the crowd, the better I like it.