By definition, an amateur can mean anyone, except a professional driver or jockey.
Motivated by his passion for trotting, the amateur is an occasional pilot who wants to feel the adrenaline of competitive racing, and teams up with experienced trotters aged between 5 and 10 years old, mainly in harness events.
The opportunity has existed for more than half a century thanks to French trotting’s governing body who has designed up a special programme for them, organising amateur events on Parisian and provincial tracks. Amateur races are both a reservoir for unearthing new owners and sustaining the passion of those who need no further persuasion.
Participants must be holders of a special amateur licence issued by LeTROT. Taking an exam is not necessary, but the potential amateur-to-be must have the aptitude to drive or ride competitively. When applying for the first time, the candidate needs to be recommended by several professionals who testify he or she has the required ability and experience.
Unlike professionals, amateurs do not receive a percentage of any prize money the trotters they are associated with may earn. Only travel expenses are covered by connections.
In 2014, LeTROT listed 837 amateur licence-holders, a figure that has been stable since 2010. It represents about a quarter of those authorised to drive and ride under saddle in trotting races.
PERMIT TRAINERS: ENLIGHTENED ENTHUSIASTS
Some amateurs don’t stop at competing as drivers or riders and decide to go a step ‘upstream’ to train and own trotters. To address expectations, LeTROT offers access to a special status known as ‘Permit Trainers’.
A Permit Trainer is an enlightened enthusiast who can have up to 4 horses under his responsibility, provided he has already two years’ experience as an amateur and has taken part in at least 30 races over the previous five years.
In 2014, there were 364 Permit Trainers, each having an average of 1.5 horses in training.
CIRCUITS AND ANUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Amateurs have circuits and annual championships, where a points system designates the best drivers in seven regional contests and one national challenge.
Two other prestigious circuits are hotly disputed: the Grand National des Amateurs (GNA) and the Trophée Vert des Amateurs. Both circuits get their names from the pro equivalents, the Grand National du Trot (GNT, the trotting ‘Tour de France’) and the Trophée Vert (the Grass track Trophy). The GNA and the Trophée Vert des Amateurs establish a ranking at the end of each round and an overall winner is designated after the last stage.
900 RACES AND AN ASSOCIATION
Amateurs annually have 900 races at their disposal throughout France i.e. 8.1% of all trotting races organised. 880 are harness events, the remainder are under saddle. Prize money topped just over €5m in 2014.
Founded in 1981, the Union Nationale des Amateurs du Trot (U.N.A.T) represents amateurs nationwide. The majority of amateurs are members, and the association strives to recruit newcomers with a view to promoting the sport competitively. Directly in contact with LeTROT, UNAT continually provides its members with information and advice. www.unat.fr