Racing the scales to stay under weight
WHEN your job requires you to weigh under 55 kilograms, one slip-up can bring it all undone.
Fast food, alcohol and fatty foods are all out of the question.
To the average punter, life as a jockey is merely riding a horse as fast as possible around a track for our entertainment.
Gone unnoticed is the strenuous diet, the sometimes violent weight fluctuations and the neglected social life due to the demand to stay in peak condition for riding.
Veteran Sunshine Coast rider Damian Browne has stayed on top of his weight restrictions for most of his 22-year career.
Mr Browne - whose claim to fame came on the back of champion gelding Buffering - was forced to adapt early.
He says his desire to win and succeed gave him a natural edge.
"I think it is something you have to understand early that it is the job, something you have to be prepared to undertake and be careful," Corbould Park's favourite son said.
"I ride at 55kgs now. I try not to ride as low as I did when I was younger.
"Leading up to race meets can be tough. I enjoy a steak but I only eat white meat or salads. It is hard not to slip up. Beer is off the menu, just water.
"But it is like any profession, the more you put in the more you get out."
A strict routine is part and parcel of a jockey's repertoire.
Most days start before the crack of dawn but when you're in the twilight of your career, you can afford a sleep-in.
"I used to get up at 3am and most do, but I sleep in till 5am now, track work in the morning then gym session after," he said.
"Throughout the day I try and keep active. If I'm just sitting round I will be tempted by the fridge.
"So I go for walks, anything to keep active."
It's a similar scenario for leading Coast apprentice Tiffani Brooker.
Her weekly sacrifices have put her in pole position as one of the state's most promising jockeys.
"In regards to me, it has a big affect on my social life and family," the 24-year-old said.
"Track work is six days a week and then the days out from races are hard to stay good.
"Personally my weight is okay. But a lot of jockeys have to sit in saunas or run in sweat gear. I don't have to starve myself fortunately.
"Just eat a lot of salads or fruit. Jockeys need to be energised with a light but high protein diet. Every gram counts."
Fortunately Ms Brooker has always made weight but with race days featuring multiple races, water intake needs to be measured.
"I have had days when I have been anxious to be minimum, fortunately I have never not made weight," she said.
"I know some who haven't and it plays on your mind a bit.
"Everyone's bodies are different - you just have to know what you can and can't have."
So next time you're trackside, spare a thought for the behind the scenes work that make all meets so enjoyable.