In the world of horse racing, there are all sorts of strategies used by jockeys that most of us laypeople won’t know anything about. Regardless of whether you’re looking at jump racing or racing on the flat, there are some techniques that the jockeys taking part in a race will use in order to give themselves an advantage or to ensure that they can finish ahead of another horse and jockey in a race.
The reality is that all jockeys engage in these practices, but they need to do so subtly in order to avoid the beady eyes of the stewards that watch the races for just such things.
When jockeys are found guilty of engaging in behaviour such as fouling or bumping, the horses that they’re riding is knocked down the finishing order and can often end up not winning the race in the official standings.
For bettors, that doesn’t matter too much because the majority of bookmakers use First Past The Post rules, meaning that they will pay out on how a race finishes and before and stewards’ enquiries or similar take place. For the horse and its connections, however, it can cause major problems in terms of prize money and other things.
What We’re Talking About
When horses take part in races, there are some things that will happen naturally. If the field is a large one, it is obvious that the jockeys will move their steeds around in order to gain space for themselves on the course, which can often result in them bumping into one another.
In and of itself, this isn’t a terrible thing. The problem arises when a jockey appears to do so deliberately in order to gain an advantage or so that they can stop a fellow rider from getting past on their horse and gaining a place. This is considered to be a foul and will have consequences.
The British Horseracing Authority is in charge of setting the levels for the various types of interference that we see on racecourses up and down the country. It is the responsibility of the stewards on the racecourse to look out for instances when a jockey might have interfered with the ride of a fellow jockey, at which point steps will be taken to decide what to do next.
One of the things that can happen is that the jockeys are called into the steward’s office in order to explain what happen and why it happened, at which point a decision over any punishment will be reached.
It’s A Fine Line
The truth is that it isn’t always easy for stewards to know why something has happened on a racecourse. It is why a crucial part of the process is for the jockeys to be called into the stewards room in order to be given a chance to explain what happened from their point of view.
Sometimes it will be felt that nothing happened that influenced the outcome of the race, whilst other times it will be judged that a horse has intentionally closed off a lane for another horse to run into and interfered with the ultimate outcome of the event. If that is the case, stewards need to decide upon a fair punishment.
Jockeys will sometimes feel the need to get their horse to ‘nudge’ another out of the way, either for safety or because there is no other way for them to get through. For stewards, there is a lot of pressure to ensure that they’re correctly identifying genuine interference rather than just something that has happened as a natural course of racing.
Has the jockey bumped another horse in order to gain an advantage, or was it just because of the undulations of the ground that racing takes place on? There isn’t always an obvious answer, which is why it’s such a fine line for them to tread.
In recent years, there is no more high-profile an example of a horse suffering the consequences of bumping and fouling than Maximum Security. The race was the Kentucky Derby in the United States of America, which is one of the most famous races that the country boasts. In the 145th renewal of the race, Maximum Security crossed the finish line in first position and sent his connections, and his backers, delirious. In the minutes that followed the conclusion of the race, however, there was an objection raised about his finish that rocked horse racing to its core.
Having led for almost the entire race, Maximum Security stumbled to his right towards the conclusion of the event. In doing so, he changed the paths of three horses. All of War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Country House had to change their directions. In the remainder of the race, War of Will and Long Range Toddy both faded and fell to the back of the back, but Country House managed to maintain his running and ended up second. That was in spite of the fact that he began the event with odds of 65/1 and was very much seen as an outsider for the race.
In the wake of the race’s conclusion, a decision was taken to say that Maximum Security, who was three-years-old and had never lost a race at that point, had violated Section 12 of rule 810 KAR1:016 of the Kentucky Derby rulebook. As a result, he was moved to the back of the pack, meaning that he will forever be officially recorded as having finished the race in 19th place in spite of the fact that he crossed the finish line first. Country House was upgraded to be named the race winner, making him one of the longest odds winners of the Kentucky Derby in the event’s history.
For vast swathes of people, the decision was an incorrect one. The contact between the horses was minimal and it certainly didn’t seem to be deliberate. Yet if you’re not sure which side of the argument you come down on, it might help to know that Donald Trump tweeted, “The Kentucky Derby decision was not a good one. It was a rough & tumble race on a wet and sloppy track, actually, a beautiful thing to watch. Only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur. The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby – not even close!”