Those that love horse racing will be familiar with so much of the language that surrounds the sport. Whether it be the idea of a horse being a non-runner, the participants being ‘weighed-in’ or the Starting Price of a horse prior to a race beginning, the words used around a horse racing meeting are well-known to most. That includes the idea of there being a Stewards Enquiry if something is a bit off about a race.
Yet how many of us know the actual nitty-gritty of such an investigation? We know the terminology, but do we know what happens during such an enquiry or why one might be called in the first place? How about the difference between a Stewards Enquiry and a Disciplinary Panel Hearing? If we’re truly to get to grips with what happens in the world of horse racing then it’s a good place to start.
A Stewards Enquiry Explained In Simple Terms
Let’s start by looking at exactly what a Stewards Enquiry is in the most simplistic terms possible. In essence, a Stewards Enquiry takes place on the day of a race and is held at the racecourse once the race in question has concluded. It is a review system that is used to ensure that races have been run fairly and that none of the participants of the race have broken any of the rules that were in play for it.
The most common reason why a Stewards Enquiry might take place is if a horse were to interfere with the running of one of the other horses in the race, perhaps compromising its chance of success. Should the Enquiry reveal that one horse has indeed interfered with the success of another then it’s possible for places to be altered or even for the offending horse to be kicked out of the race altogether.
How Enquiries Work
There is a system in place for how Stewards Enquiries work in the United Kingdom. The first thing that will happen is that either stewards on the course will spot something that they think needs to be looked at or else someone will approach them with a complaint about what happened during a race. This could be a jockey, their trainer or a member of the team that spotted something untoward.
Next up, the Stipendiary Steward will approach the Panel for the day and let them know that a complaint has been made or an issue flagged up. The Stipendiary Steward will then be responsible for presenting the case to the Panel as well as questioning the jockey, trainer or anyone else involved in the incident. The Panel will be able to put forward questions, in addition to viewing video footage.
Because of the development in technology available at racecourses nowadays, the Panel will have at least four different viewpoints of any given incident in order to be able to watch what happened back. They will then use their judgement to decide whether any of the Rules of Racing were broken and, if so, what an appropriate punishment for the offender might be.
The Raceday Operations Team
The British Horseracing Authority is responsible for managing the Raceday Operations Team, which in turn has the duty of ensuring that a race day goes as smoothly as possible. The likes of the administration of the Disciplinary Panel and the Appeal Board are two office-based functions that the team carries out, whilst professional and voluntary BHA Stewards will monitor what’s happening on the course.
Veterinary Officers are also part of the team, overseeing the welfare of the horses and inspecting them before and after the races. This includes taking samples from the horses pre and post-race. The stables are controlled by Equine Welfare & Integrity Officers, checking the identity of the horses as well as people entering the yard. They will also take samples from certain horses after races.
The Starters, as the name suggests, start the race, whilst the Judge has the primary responsibility of determining the finishing order of the race entrants. If a photo-finish is the outcome then the Judge will decide what it reveals. The Clerk of the Scales is tasked with weighing in and weighing out the riders, ensuring that horses have the right weights to carry. They also monitor who goes in and out of the Weighing Room.
Any and all of the people on the list can be involved in launching a Stewards Enquiry, should they feel that something untoward has happened at some point in the day. The entire team works together to make sure that the Rules of Racing are adhered to by everyone taking part in a race, whether that be the jockeys riding the horse, the trainers, the owners or anyone else in a horse’s team.
How Bookmakers Treat Stewards Enquiries
If you’re on the racecourse then you’ll hear an announcement about the Stewards Enquiry not long after the conclusion of the race in question. When it comes to any bets that you’ve placed, how the Enquiry will be treated depends entirely on the rules and regulations put in place by the bookmaker that you place your wagers with. Not all bookies treat incidents the same, which is why it’s important to read the small print.
Many bookmakers will opt for a ‘First Past The Post’ approach, which means that they will pay out on the order that the horses finish the race in real time. As a result, a horse having its position altered after a Stewards Enquiry will be irrelevant. This is good news if you’ve placed a bet on the horse that was guilty of an infringement and not so good on if you’ve bet on the one that should have finished first!
Some online bookies have started to pay out on both the initial result and any subsequent changes to the official result, declaring it to be an act of goodwill. In actuality, of course, it doesn’t cost them a huge amount of money but can result in more punters using their services over those of a competitor, which makes them more money than they’ll lose in the long run. Look out for your bookmaker of choice’s approach to this.
Stewards Enquiry Or Disciplinary Panel Hearing?
Both a Stewards Enquiry and a Disciplinary Panel Hearing are forms of investigation over the behaviour of a horse or jockey during a race. They are not the same thing, however, so it’s worth mentioning the difference between them here. The Stewards Enquiry will take place immediately after a race and normally concludes before the next race takes place. They usually last no longer than the interval between races.
On occasion, Stewards Enquiries will reconvene after the next race has concluded, but the Enquiry will not last longer than the day of racing that the event was part of. All of the evidence required for a Stewards Enquiry to reach a decision will be available on the race day, so there’s no need for things to run any longer than that. The decision of the Panel will be announced on the day, but may be appealed in the future.
A Disciplinary Panel Hearing differs as they are held at the head office of the British Horseracing Authority, which is located in London. These can last hours or even days, with the complexity of the issue at hand being the deciding factor. Whilst the Stewards Enquiry is about what happened on the course that day, a Disciplinary Panel Hearing can be about any breach of the Rules of Racing that has occurred at any time.
Though they are different from each other, the two things are often linked. A Disciplinary Panel Hearing often comes about after a referral from a Stewards Enquiry or because of an appeal about the decision made by the Stewards Enquiry. They can also come about because of an investigation by the Integrity team and will take place before the Disciplinary Panel itself forms to make its judgement.
2015 St. Leger
One of the most famous Stewards Enquiries of recent times took place at Doncaster in 2015. Simple Verse had become the first filly in 23 years to win the St. Leger, one of the country’s five Classics of flat racing, only to be disqualified as a result of a Stewards Enquiry. It was decided by the Panel that the horse had been responsible for ‘extensive barging’ as the horses ran up the final furlong.
As a result, Bondi Beach was announced as the winner of the race. The trainer of Simple Verse, Ralph Beckett, declared that he was ‘astonished’ and confirmed that they would be appealing the decision. The result of the Stewards Enquiry meant that it was the first time that a horse had been disqualified from first place in the Classic since 1789. Bondi Beach’s jockey, Colm O’Donoghue, felt it was the correct decision after being ‘impeded’.
As promised, however, the result was appealed by the team behind Simple Verse and the British Horseracing Authority heard the case in London. The Panel sat for three hours and eventually decided that, though there had been a coming together, the cumulative effect was not enough to mean that Bondi Beach should be awarded the win. Consequently Simple Verse became the first horse to win a Classic, be disqualified and then reinstated as the winner.