1. At the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, NY, humans get less respect than their hoofed pals. Although 179 horses have been inducted there, only 91 jockeys have made the cut.

2. Being a jockey doesn't come with a great benefits package, either. All jockeys are self-employed, so they're responsible for their own business expenses, such as agent fees, travel costs, equipment, and some of the highest health insurance premiums in professional sports.

3. They also can't own the horses they ride, or pick the colors they wear. Instead, jockeys use the registered patterns that belong to whoever hired them.

4. Of course, there are some pluses. While most riders make $35,000 to $45,000 a year, the best earn upwards of $2 million in prize money.

5. Frank Hayes is the only deceased jockey to ever win a race. In 1923, the stable hand somehow convinced one of the owners to let him ride at Belmont Park. To everyone's amazement, he and the horse, Sweet Kiss, won. Unfortunately, Hayes didn't live to see it. He died mid-ride from a heart attack, though his body somehow stayed upright through the finish.

6. Hayes' victory was just as bittersweet for his horse. Sweet Kiss had to endure the nickname "Sweet Kiss of Death" for the rest of his life.

(Image credit: Flickr user Travis Isaacs)

7. Speaking of funny names, the odd position that jockeys lift themselves into while racing is called the Monkey Crouch. The stance was universally mocked when American jockey Tod Sloan first introduced it in 1897, but it ended up revolutionizing the sport. Not only did Sloan win a remarkable 48 percent of his races the following year, but according to a study published in Science, "horse-race times and records improved by 5 to 7 percent in 1900" as other riders began copying the position.

8. In horse racing, making weight is no joke. To compete in the Kentucky Derby, a jockey plus his equipment can only weigh 126 lbs. That means most weigh less than 118 lbs.

9. This results in some strange eating habits. In an effort to stay trim, Laffit Pincay, Jr., the world's winningest jockey, would take a single peanut, slice it into slivers, and eat just half of it for lunch.

10. This wasn't Pincay's only secret to success. He also used to speed-walk instead of run to void putting on any extra muscle. (It's a trick other riders still use.)

11. On the other hand, there's no height limit for jockeys. The tallest rider on record is former NBA player Manute Bol, who stands 7'7". He was licensed by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission to race in a charity event.

12. There are some pretty tall non-NBA riders, too. The next tallest jockey is Denmark's Louise Moeller. She's 6'1".


The above article was written by Rob Lammle. It is reprinted with permission from the Scatterbrained section of the July-August 2010 issue of mental_floss magazine.

Be sure to visit mental_floss' entertaining website and blog for more fun stuff!

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Leah brings up a sad but true point - lots of jockeys "flip" (vomit) before a race, or try to make weight by going into steam rooms to sweat out some weight.
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What's even more sad is that to maintain low weight, a lot of jockeys force themselves to vomit before weighing in. There is a whole culture surrounding the "heave".
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