A former jockey studying to be an accountant at Teesside University has won a national award to help him progress in his new career path.
Keith Mercer, 33, a final year BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance student, has been selected to receive the JETS (Jockeys Employment & Training Scheme) IJF (Injured Jockeys Fund) Progress Award. The IJF award of £2,000 aims to recognise the progress of jockeys embarking on a new career path.
The JETS charity was set up in 1995 to help former professional jockeys achieve a secure future. It is funded by contributions from jockeys’ prize money, with additional support from the IJF.
Originally from Liverpool and now living in Middlesbrough, Keith decided to pursue a career in accountancy having developed an interest in property and finance while still a jockey.
The former jump jockey rode 195 winners including the Scottish Grand National and finished fifth in the Grand National.
He was forced to retire through injury and decided to return to study and complete and accountancy degree to help develop a new career.
JETS selected Keith for the award in recognition of his consistent high achievement while working towards his degree.
Keith, who received his prize at a special ceremony at Cheltenham Racecourse, said: “I began riding when I was really young and become professional when I was 22.
“I really loved it, but I always knew I would need a new career at some point, as not many jockeys can sustain their career into their forties as it’s difficult due to the physical demands.
“A lot of former jockeys stay in the industry, but I had a few properties became more interested in that side of things.
“The support from JETS has been really valuable, as it has enabled me to expand my knowledge. I’m currently learning Spanish to enhance my business knowledge.”
Keith said of his time at Teesside University: “The facilities across the campus are really good and the course really prepares students for the career they ultimately want to pursue. I’m also involved in a lot outside of academic work such as the football society and skiing trips.”
Keith was among five former jockeys now pursuing new careers who were shortlisted for the IJF award.
JETS manager Lisa Delany added: “We were delighted to have such a strong line up of contenders, with the diversity of careers they’ve chosen shows the range of skills jockeys can develop in their new careers.
“I’m proud of the role JETS has played in helping them reach where they are.”