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Jockey Keith Asmussen health

Keith Asmussen is riding Just Steel in the Derby today, and he looks really unwell to me. We all know jockeys are on restrictive diets, but when I saw Keith Asmussen just now, I gasped. He looks severely anorexic. We spend a lot of time monitoring the welfare of race horses, but who is looking after the jockeys?


Jerry Bailey has been talking about this both yesterday and today. Keith is 5’10”, so it would be incredibly tough to stay at jockey weight :flushed:


Oh my, I could tell he was taller than the other jockeys, but 5’10"?! It looks like his body can barely hold up his head, and this is such an intense sport to do in that condition. Poor guy.

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Maybe it’s just me, but this is just as critical and inappropriate as saying that someone looks like a blimp and should go in a diet. My husband is 5’9" and weighed 129 lbs. for years, and he certainly was in quiet good health.


Does he gallop and race TBs though? Being tall and lankey is fine, my x h was like that, but if you are burning the calories and the hours that are required to gallop and ride racehorses, as well as making the weight that is expected in big races, it is not easy and there is no shame in calling out the unrealistic expectations that Jockeys have to live with.


He boxes (and to parallel it to racing, is mostly fighting jockey-sized guys because of his weight class) and runs distance. Some people just have the metabolism. :woman_shrugging: Regardless, I think speculation about an ED or otherwise just isn’t appropriate. In an interview, Lukas even said that Asmussen is “too skinny,” which leads me to believe his build is natural.

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I think Robyn Smith, one of the first women jockeys to become well known, was either 5’9" or 5’10", and had incredible issues keeping her weight down.

Even much shorter men have issues (at least some of them) keeping their weight low.


Keith is apparently 5’10", and as a jockey I assume he is weighing in at about 110 lbs. Eating disorders are a serious problem among equestrian athletes, especially jockeys, so I’m not being “critical and inappropriate” in bringing this up. It’s a serious problem that should not be ignored: Eating Disorders Blight Racing

I saw a harrowing HBO documentary called “Jockey” about 20 years ago, you might be able to find it online. Here is a clip: Jockey


If your husband is 129, he’s a super featherweight, or maybe featherweight boxer. A “jockey-sized” boxer would be a light flyweight or flyweight. Most jockeys, considering their average height, would probably normally weigh about 129 like your husband, but unfortunately they are forced to lose 20 lbs off that to compete. Imagine your husband being forced to lose 20 lbs off his perfectly healthy weight in order to do his job.


Isn’t the best weight range for a jockey between 100 and 120 lbs.? Anything more than that and they’re really restricted in terms of the horses/races they can ride. (The Kentucky Derby, for example, has all the horses carrying 126 lbs which includes jockey, saddle and girth).


I find this discussion of Keith Asmussen’s weight–much less allegations of anorexia–pretty offensive.

Jockeys not only have to be slender, they also must be strong and very physically fit. I’m sure Asmussen is both or he wouldn’t be getting the rides and wins he does. His riding weight (including tack) is 125 lbs. I’d imagine he maintains it by some combination of exercising horses in the mornings, weight training, and possibly running. Most definitely not by starving himself. :roll_eyes:

I have a jockey friend who is also 5’10". When he was Asmussen’s age, he maintained his riding weight pretty easily. As he grew older, he began to practice intermittent fasting–the same diet many non-jockeys use. Later, coming back from a year off due to injury, he decided not to make the U.S. weight. Now he’s a successful jockey in England.

The notion that an anorexic jockey would have the strength or the stamina to race ride 5-6 horses a day, or to ride a horse in the Kentucky Derby is ludicrous. And even if the accusation was true, it is really none of our business.


Just on the point of whether it’s appropriate or not, Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss, former jockeys doing the commentary on the Kentucky Derby yesterday, brought up the question of his height and weight. And Bailey even raised the question of whether, given how light a jockey has to be, Asmussen could eat enough and have enough muscle to ride effectively.

So, the discussion is not confined to us.


Did they call him anorexic? Or say that he looked too weak to hold up his own head (post #3 above)?

I’m surprised that Jerry Bailey would raise the question of whether Asmussen has enough muscle to ride effectively, considering that he of all people (as a former jockey) should know that Asmussen’s riding speaks for itself.


They did not use the word “anorexic.”

Forced weight loss for jockeys is well documented. Please watch the clip I posted above from the HBO documentary “Jockey”. This features jockeys Shane Sellers and Randy Romero. Randy’s health was destroyed by “flipping” aka bulimia, to the point where his kidneys failed. Shane Sellers explains the ways jockeys force themselves to lose weight (starvation, steam rooms, “flipping”) and gives a tour of the “workout room” that includes a toilet installed specifically for puking up meals. This is a real issue, it’s not speculation, and it’s very serious.


You aren’t dealing with current information. Like everywhere else, times change in racing too.

The documentary you referenced is 20 years old. It was released in 2004. Randy Romero rode his last race in 1999. Shane Sellers last rode in 2013. I can guarantee you there wasn’t a single jockey riding yesterday in the Derby who starved to get there. I happen to know many jockeys. Pound for pound, they are incredibly fit. I’ve seen them in civvies and in their morning riding clothes. None of them are skeletal or weak.

In case anyone is interested: the average race saddle weighs about 1.5 lbs. A jockey’s boots are almost as thin as tissue paper. In the major markets, KY, NY, CA (I don’t know about the others) safety equipment, ie, helmet and safety vest, do not count in the weight allowances. If a jockey can’t make the weight, he can ride overweight as long as the trainer agrees. There’s no penalty for doing so.


I remember watching Pat Day talk about weight management. He said he didn’t have as much terrible keeping weight off as many other jockeys did. His “treat” to himself was half a peanut. I wouldn’t have the willpower!

A friend grew up in the racing world of the 60’s and 70’s. She mentioned the flip bowl and drugs used to keep weight off. She also said from that early time jockeys were treated terribly.

Hopefully life is much better for them now. At least they’ve got health insurance (right?).


Did you watch it? Shane Sellers talks about how nobody wanted him to speak up about the disordered eating, it’s a dirty secret. This is not “old news”, it’s a serious ongoing issue and we need to take jockey welfare seriously.

From 2014: Weight-making strategies in professional jockeys: implications for physical and mental health and well-being

From 2012: A weighty issue: Hidden world of jockey heaving bowls

From 2020: “poor weight management techniques are still an issue and the issue of flipping undoubtedly hasn’t gone away.”

From 2021: Ex-jockey Lucy Barry reveals hell of eating disorder and depression as she becomes fourth rider this month to quit

From 2018: Mental health and wellbeing of jockeys (including “cutting weight”)

From 2021: Jockey reveals unhealthy ways young riders lose weight for races
“People often think it’s like boxing, that we can rehydrate once we weigh out, but that’s incorrect — we have to come in on the same weight as we weighed out.”

You can google it for yourself and find many more studies and news articles covering this issue.


Some people are naturally thin and eat normal amounts of food. There are genes which control thinness. https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1007603

So while anorexia surely exists in racing, like in many sports, Keith Asmussen may just be naturally skinny. And you certainly cannot diagnose anorexia without first conducting a psych eval. Being underweight is only one of a number of diagnostic criteria for anorexia.

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Even someone who is “naturally thin” can be seriously underweight.