Three females among 17 graduates of Jockeys' School
History was created when three female apprentice jockeys graduated from a batch of 17 at the passing-out ceremony for the new Jockeys' Schools trainees on the lawns of the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC), Hagley Park Road, last Thursday.
The young ladies are 21-year-old Mellisa Ward, a past student of Camperdown High; 22-year-old Natalie Berger, a graduate of Gaynstead High; and 24-year-old Andree Powell, a past student of Clarendon College.
Prior to this batch, only two women had graduated from the Jockeys' Training School since its inception in 1980 - Azel Cowie in 1992 and Georgina Sergeon in 2009.
The other graduates who completed the 24-week training course from February to July were Oneil Beckford, Dane Dawkins, Odean Edwards, Amoy Gray, Bebeto Harvey, Jerome Innis, Roshane Johnson, Kemoy Parchment, Javaniel Patterson, Hakeem Pottinger, AndrÈ Powell, Oneil Scott, Linton Steadman, and Anthony Thomas. They are scheduled to ride against senior jockeys at Caymanas Park on Saturday, September 26.
JRC operations steward Haldene Johansen, who gave the course overview, disclosed that there were "significant changes to the programme this time around as the JRC listened to the stakeholders."
"We placed greater emphasis on the core elements of the programme in order to produce well-rounded horsemen," he said.
Emphasis was placed on horsemanship, which was taught by well-known equestrian Susan Wates, race-riding techniques by retired Hall of Fame jockey Charles Hussey (now a steward), personal development, the rules of racing and an expanded nutritional programme to help new riders cope with weight problems.
be the best
Guest speaker was former JRC chairman Dennis Lalor, who challenged the class of 2015 to be the best they can be, as they enjoy the opportunity their predecessors of a bygone era never had.
Lalor, who as chairman of the JRC in 1980 spearheaded the formation of the Jockeys' School, recalled that under the old system, the apprentices "were not required to be literate or numerate like the ones coming through the school today, hence the dropout rate was 35 per cent. I vowed to break that cycle ... .
"You are now the glamour boys and girls of racing. Being educated, this is your opportunity to take advantage of a noble sport, to ensure that corruption is avoided. Please be careful of the company you seek ... . God be with all of you, and may your careers be the best," said Lalor.
Also speaking were Jeffrey Mordecai of the JRC sub-committee; Richard Longmore of the JRC; Owners Association president Dr Graham Brown; the respective presidents of the trainers' associations, Vin Edwards and Dale Murphy; Jockeys' Guild President AndrÈ Martin; Cedric Stewart, CEO of Caymanas Track Limited; and Ina Lawrence, principal of the Jockeys' School.