Sam talks with Clerk of the Scales Claudia Marelli on her role & all things racing
With all eyes on Aintree this week I had a chat with Claudia who is a BHA Clerk of the Scales. One of horseracing’s unique but most vitals roles. She explains what she does and why its so vital that the jockeys weigh in & out and why it’s so key they have everything they should for all the racing public. She will be at Aintree this week so all 40 jockeys will be following this process before the big race.
How did you become interested in horse racing?
I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember and would sit with my Grandpa on a Saturday and watch the racing. He’d often take me to the bookies with him to put his bets on but I had to wait
outside, I used to try sneak a look at the TV’s to watch the racing with my imaginary bet on. As I got
older, he started taking me to the races and to the Middleham and Malton open days. I was truly bitten by the racing bug when I started University and I got a part time job riding out. I spent a lot of time going racing, as soon as I finished Uni, I got a job in racing as stable staff. I actually chose to lead up at Wolverhampton rather than attend my graduation!
What route did you take to become a Clerk of the Scales?
I started as stable staff and progressed to travelling head groom. I always wanted to race ride but my
aspirations to become a jockey were cut short after a riding accident coming home from the gallops. A vet saved my life and it left me in a wheelchair for a short time and unable to work for 18months. I was told I probably wouldn’t ride again but, as soon as I was able, I went back to working in a yard and riding out. Unfortunately, my injuries hadn’t healed sufficiently so I had to rethink my career, all I knew was I wanted to stay within racing. I got a job at the British Racing School as an Instructor and absolutely loved teaching people to ride. I then got a job with the BHA as an Equine Welfare and Integrity Officer and this in turn led to a part time position on the scales which I now do full time.
Could you give an overview of your role?
The Clerk of the Scales primary role is to weigh jockeys out and in, ensuring they carry the correct
weight, wear the correct colours, wear/carry the correct equipment and report any discrepancies in
relation to this. It is also the job of the scales to ensure everyone both on and off course whether that be officials, bookmakers or the public are aware of any changes. (i.e. going/jockey/colours/non-runners/withdrawals). We also check the race conditions and ensure horses are carrying the correct weight, no penalties are missing and in some races check jockey eligibility.
What does a typical raceday involve for you?
On arrival at the course I will first check the going, any non-runners or early jockey/colour changes and ensure the starters, judge, stewards and broadcast are aware of these. I then check to make sure no jockeys need to be passed fit to ride and if appropriate speak to the doctors.
My next job is to work through race by race and check the race conditions, weights, look for any penalties and check the jockeys and colours on the scales system are as the racecard / Racing Post, reporting discrepancies as appropriate. I then begin the job the scales what is most known for weighing out and in. When the jockeys weigh out, I’m checking they are the correct weight, wearing the correct colours, have and are wearing the correct equipment and pick up the correct number cloth. On weighing in, I again am checking their weight and making sure they have everything they weighed out with. If a jockey comes in heavy/light/or forgets to weigh they are reported to the stewards. Before I can give weighed in, I confirm the result with the judge and make sure the stewards are clear and there are no enquiries which would affect the result.
During the day, non-runners may be declared, colour changes reported, jockeys needing to be changed, the going changed or horses withdrawn I am responsible for ensuring everyone is aware of this information, inputting it to the system and liaising with trainers or their reps should they want me to make their horse a non-runner or change their jockey.
Which racecourses are you based at?
I’m based in Yorkshire so cover the Yorkshire/Midlands/Northern tracks but occasionally do the odd Scottish track. I love Beverley as it reminds me of my Grandpa, also the July Course at Newmarket as I led my first winner up there.
What has been your favourite moment in racing?
My favourite moments in racing have come mainly when I was working in yards, seeing a horse you
ride and look after win is always special. My favourite horse was a tiny filly barely 14hh called
Diminuto, everyone used to think she was a companion when she arrived at the races and yet she won 7 races and was placed 19 times. I love to see students I taught at the Racing School doing well in their racing careers and a few are race riding.
Which race meetings are you particularly looking forward to being involved in over the next few months?
I’m looking forward to both the Grand National and St Leger meetings, they are both big meetings
with top class horses and a good racing atmosphere. I also love the flat so now the turf has started I
enjoy working any of the flat meets especially getting to watch this year’s 2-year-olds and the sprinters.
What has your experience as a woman in racing been like?
I have never been treated any differently for been a woman in the sport. I think there is an ageing
perception that it’s purely a man’s world but with more women in the sport I hope this view will
change. The fact it is a sport where men and women compete together. I feel jockeys should be known for their ability not their gender.
What would your main piece of advice be to someone looking for a career in racing?
If you love the sport, go for it, there are plenty of careers within it you don’t have to be a jockey. You
don’t need experience, just a willingness to learn and work hard. A love of horses and the sport will
all help you succeed. There are plenty of places to get career advice (Careers in Racing Website) and my door is always open if I can help anyone.
What makes horseracing such a special sport to be part of?
It’s hard to describe but once you get bitten by the bug you can’t leave. Racing is like one big
family all sharing the same passion. Everyone supports each other, celebrates the successes, comforts and assists with the bad times and everyone is there for the love of the horse and the sport. The unique bond between horses and humans makes it even more special and the talent displayed by some of these horses is a privilege to watch.
I hope you enjoyed finding out more about the Clerk of the Scales position and what they do behind the scenes. You can find out more about people working in the industry on our Case Studies page. I am also one of Careers in Racing’s content creators so look out for more from me on our social channels. You can also join our Youth Collaboration Group find out more about them here.