Who’s Judging the Judges?

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A couple of weeks ago, while watching the finale of the June 21 twilight card at Belmont Park on television, I was quite surprised when the stewards failed to light the inquiry sign after Love Is Key Kaz edged Snit Fit by a nose after drifting out several paths in the race to the wire.

Rajiv Maragh, the rider of Snit Fit, did clam foul against Guillermo Rodriguez and Love Is Key Kaz, and after a fairly long delay the stewards ruled there was interference and Love Is Key Kaz was disqualified and placed second. Here is the official chart of the race: It’s worth reading just for the Equibase chart caller’s descriptive prose (Love Is Key Kaz was “directed to look his nearest threat in the eye a furlong out, came out several paths carrying out his main danger battling head to head, had the rider elbow the rider of Snit Fit as they came together inside the sixteenth pole and just held on.”)

I had no bet or rooting interest in this maiden claiming race, but as a casual observer it seemed pretty obvious while watching the live pan shot that there was enough going on for there to be an inquiry. Simply put, though they eventually got it right, I felt the stewards weren’t doing their job.

I even sent out an impetuous Tweet (@raypaulick): “Seriously, shouldn’t stewards be fined for not calling inquiry in Belmont Park finale? Couldn’t have been much more obvious.”

I didn’t think much more about it until controversy erupted last Sunday over a non-disqualification in the sixth race at Betfair Hollywood Park. I wasn’t watching the races at the time but saw outrage on Twitter and other social media and later looked at the replay. It featured So She Dances, who stumbled at the start and threw Joe Talamo to the ground (he walked away unhurt), rallying riderless to the wire and drifting in, just as the eventual winner and second-place finisher (Miss Radiance and Ubelongtomemissy, respectively) were drifting out under left-handed urging. A fast-finishing Branding, ridden by Gary Stevens, had to take up sharply as the path in front of her closed, and she wound up fourth.

The stewards called for an inquiry into the incident at the start but it took a claim of foul by Stevens to have them look at the interference in deep stretch. Stewards ruled no change because they believed the incident happened too close to the finish to cost Branding a better placing than fourth.

Many disagreed with that interpretation, including me. In the end, however, the decision not to disqualify the winner was a judgment call.

What I don’t get, just as I didn’t understand why an obvious foul in deep stretch didn’t warrant an inquiry at Belmont Park, is why it took a claim of foul by Stevens for the stewards to at least look at the incident.

And that begs the question: Who is judging the judges? Is someone at regulatory agencies like the newly formed New York State Gaming Commission or the California Horse Racing Board paying attention to the performances of the men and women handling these very important duties.

We know (from personal experience) that no one is perfect and errors will happen. That applies to racing officials, too. Here and here are a couple of examples of how mistakes (not judgment calls) in the stewards’ booth have been handled in different jurisdictions.

There should be more accountability. Horseplayers and horsemen deserve competence and consistency from racing officials. It would be nice for horseplayers and horsemen to know that someone is judging the performance of stewards.

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  • kyle

    That’s funny, Ray. Somebody at CHRB or New York Gaming giving a crap or knowing enough to oversee the stewards.

  • betterthannothing

    Central Racing Authority: because people and horses deserve much better than locals are willing or capable to offer.

    • HappyHarriett

      Really? Centralizing something makes it better and fairer? Are you serious? Centralizing most things makes it almost impossible to force improvements. Many layers of quality control are built in to systems that really work. One concretized authority usually causes more problems than it fixes. Centralize authority in NY and CA solved what? NOTHING so far. Let me guess – you like bigger government and probably are the first on your street to sign up for your “free” Obamacare. Good luck with that.

      • http://www.BladerunnersNHRC.org Sean Kerr

        HappyHarriett: centralizing the authority over the airline industry, the railroad industry and the banking industry led to the United States becoming the global power that it is today. You are completely wrong – and the mention of Obama care here is just plain silly and has nothing to do with the issue.

      • hayduke

        Happy(?)Harriet – drink some more tea:)

      • betterthannothing

        HH, I dislike and distrust big government as much has you do. I never said that a central authority should be government run.

        A central racing authority could be a privately run business (like the USADA is a private agency) or a non-profit organization which would write and enforce strong uniform rules, consolidate and improve management and policing. With the right commissioner, it would be far more efficiently including financially than 38 different commissions with various standards and rules. A central authority could hire, deploy and rotate competent investigators, stewards, regulatory vets and other officials when and where needed especially if the industry chooses to offer less but better quality racing. Rotating officials would help remove conflicts of interest that exist between state racing commissions and local horsemen which leads to corruption and abuse.

        • betterthannothing

          as much as you do

    • Red Rider

      I am all for centralization. The more centralized the better, then you only have to have one or two corrupt individuals (preferably at the top) to “influence”. All of the fragmentation makes it more difficult to obtain consistent levels of incompetence and corruption from one venue to the next. Simplify. KISS.

      • betterthannothing

        RR, quality is out there, beyond corruption and incompetence, I hope you meet good people some day.

  • Roger

    Good question….in California the question has come up many times over the last decade. I wonder if THEY are drug tested? I read this morning a MLB umpire was fired due to another drug positive.
    This latest HPark fiasco….Vic Stauffer’s race call indicating the “loose” horse was the source of the problem may have had some influence but in any event …..the winner (which was owned by Jim Rome) deserved to come down and placed 4th and the stewards that ruled NO CHANGE should get a 5 day – no pay – suspension unless they are ABOVE ALL in CA Racing.

    • victor stauffer

      At BPH the stewards cannot hear the announcer.

      • Roger

        Not even during the replays? Anyway, after seeing the head-on…do you
        have an opinion you’d like to share given that you’ve been a CA steward not long ago in Northern California?

      • Sharon

        Vic’s call can only be heard in the paddock or the parking lot…what a disgrace. The one thing that can be heard is that horrible Breeders Cup song “The best is yet to come” that is played before the win and you’re in races–so loud you can’t think. Vic–maybe they could hook your call up to those speakers?? Help!

  • Online Bettor Only

    I agree 100% and would suggest more. There should be 5 placing judges/stewards (to try to avoid nepotism) and their vote on every objection or inquiry should be made public on the internet daily. It should be public knowledge on how each judge ruled.
    Like you wrote: who judges the judges??????

  • MSD

    The stewards are getting payed to make their ruling based on their opinions. As much as some of the opinions may be in our minds outrageous and “wrong,” it can’t be “wrong” because you can’t technically be proven right or wrong. Therefore, you’d be fining them just because their opinions are different then most. I totally agree with Ray and everyone else that thinks the horse at Hollywood should have been disqualified (never saw the Belmont race) but you can’t fine them for their opinion.

    • RayPaulick

      My point is that in neither case where there was obvious interference in deep stretch, neither the New York nor Southern California stewards thought it was worthy of an inquiry. I don’t know how anyone could see that and not at least think it was deserving of a second look. Both times it took a jockey’s claim of foul. It should not have.

      Of course, the New York incident was the final race of the day, and the old joke goes that the stewards are in the elevator before the race is declared official on the final race of the day!

    • Roger

      When those opinions are incompetent or impaired for some reason….Ray’s question comes into play….who’s judging the judges?

    • name

      There used to be an opinion that the earth was flat. I do believe that opinion was wrong and we can prove it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jack-Twee/100000596714235 Jack Twee

    Who’s Judging the Media?

    • RayPaulick

      Good question. In the online world, it’s readers with their eyeballs and advertisers with their dollars.

      • Hoops and Horses

        Absolutely. I never saw the race myself, but the fact there was so much outrage over a race that otherwise would have been long forgotten suggests something was missed.

        • Roisin

          Excellent point !!

      • steve

        Is the drf even relevant anymore when it comes to something liike this? Or are they strictly pps?

      • Lexington 3

        Dumb answer, Ray. That wasn’t the question. What you are saying is that you can write whatever you want about some subject and as long as your merry little band of internet followers keeps reading it.

        • RayPaulick

          Says the person who keeps reading it.

          The marketplace judges the media like it judges the corner store, the insurance salesman, or the car dealer.

          • Lexington 3

            Market Share = Integrity of Media

            Good to know, Ray

          • RayPaulick

            It’s like a car salesman. Market share is built over time on trust.

          • RedShoesGirl

            but the corner store, the insurance salesman or the car dealer do not have the responsibility to report on issues as truthfully as possible. the reason many people do not trust the media is because they perceive the media as being unreliable. we need to be able to trust informed sources to provide us with as unbiased reporting as possible.

            if your site is a site governed by journalism ethics and you consider yourself a journalist then we have certain expectations. if your site is simply one man’s opinion expressed in a blog that is not governed by journalistic ethics that’s another thing entirely. then the public can judge with their eyeballs.

            this site is called “the paulick report” – which implies you are REPORTING on issues. you have a running headline that says “news wire” which tells me again you are reporting the news.

            if you think the integrity of the media is gauged by market share, that tells me you are not working as a journalist.

          • RayPaulick

            The public are not fools. If they don’t trust the information or the integrity, they’ll go elsewhere. I find it interesting to be getting lectured about integrity from someone who hides behind an anonymous name.

          • RedShoesGirl

            not hiding, don’t assume. disqus merged two names i had signed up under a while back and this one is the one that won out. my name is lara hartley and i have been a journalist or editorial photographer in one form or the other since 1974. you can google me.

            oh and i had a publisher force me out of a newspaper in iowa by telling me “your journalism ethics don’t matter here.”

          • RedShoesGirl

            an apology would be nice.

        • Tinky

          How, exactly, do imagine that markets are made?

        • Beach

          Has it occurred to you that we read it because it’s TRUE?

          –Constituent of the Merry Little Band, and proud of it

          • Red Rider

            Believable, informative, controversial, thought provoking, even factual. Be careful with TRUE. TRUTH is a rare and difficult to ascertain commodity.

  • Yo soy fiesta

    Agreed Tinky, I didn’t have a cent on that race but as soon as I saw the head on the first thing out of my mouth was “Ooh Quinonez celebrated too soon, he’s coming down for sure”. I thought it was pretty obvious Branding had a head of steam even though it was close to the wire.

  • Yo soy fiesta

    Something lost in the Hollywood deal to most everyone with the exception of Joe Talamo I’m sure was what a nice job So She Dances did hopping to the left to avoid stepping on Joe after she dumped him.

  • jttf

    california stewards are the worst of a bad bunch. the undefeated twirlin candy blowing the end of the first turn and taking a horse 7 wide, where the jockey almost falls off. zenyatta cutting off tough tiz’s sis to remain unbeaten. these stewards will do anything to keep their star horses from losing. it is all about business.

    • victor stauffer

      The stewards don’t work for the track. They work for the state. They have no interest or stake in the track’s success or failure.

      • RayPaulick

        True in California. As in racing, not true everywhere.

      • Red Rider

        CA stewards = incompetent, judges in a kangaroo court.

        Stewards “work for the state” = political payoff.

      • jttf

        where did i mention the word “track” ?

      • WILLIAM L. ANTON

        So brother Victor: THE BAD CALLS ARE TRULY STUPIDITY, and not due to favoritism etc, etc.?? Well I guess I must respect your blog, by the way you are still a steward, YES??

  • Figless

    I read that stewards in most overseas meets file a written report on every race, is this true? Perhaps we need to institute this rule in the States. Not a lot to ask, and it would make them accountable for non-calls, which are the most aggravating to horseplayers?

    Just like in other sports going to replay gives the fans (gamblers) confidence, its just as important for appearances sake that they post the inquiry sign as it is to eventually get it right. We need to know that someone is paying attention.

    • G. Rarick

      Have a look at the “reports” section on the Hong Kong Jockey Club web site. That’s how it ought to be done. (I won’t include a link because it will block my comment…)

  • Online Bettor Only

    I’ve been at racetracks on busy days and the stewards made the race “official” while the jockeys were still pulling up their horses on the other side of the track. The track and/or stewards didn’t want to waste time because they wanted to get the races off on time because of the busy day. The jockeys never had a chance to make an objection in this situation. I wonder if the track tells the state employed stewards to do this?????

    • victor stauffer

      This is an instance where ” quick official ” was used. If a jockey wishes to claim foul he can ride near an outrider and or an official standing just outside the outer rail and request a ” hold ” be put on a race. The stewards will not make that race official until that jockey is able to return to the unsaddling area and speak to the stewards. When no “holds” are requested the outrider will radio the stewards with the “all clear” No race will ever be made official until the “all clear” has been heard and acknowledged by the stewards.

  • Richard C

    This is where the game ends…and the shenanigans begin.

  • louisbille

    Ha! Then you will need judges to watch the judges who are watching the judges. America 2013: where even Supreme Court judges are biased towards their own agendas. Do you really think you can find unbiased judges for horse racing? Never happen. Happy 4th!

    • HappyHarriett

      Louisbille – wow a voice of reason and rational thinking. Refreshing!

      As you say, unbaised judges may be, these days, impossible. But how about judges who are AWAKE, ALERT and DOING THEIR JOBS?

  • Ned Daly

    You folks might be interested in going to NYRA’s Belmont website. Pull down the Racing Info tab and chose Steward’s Corner.

    Written decisions of the Stewards are available for each racing day.

    In New York the three Stewards are appointed by NYRA, the State Gaming Commission, and The Jockey Club.

    • RayPaulick

      Interesting that on the race in question June 21, the steward’s corner notes say there was an objection and a steward’s inquiry. However, track announcer Tom Durkin only referred to the objection by Rajiv Maragh, and the track feed only showed the word “objection” during the review of the race.

      • Red Rider

        Dear Ray:

        Based on personal experience: California stewards condense and redact even sworn and recorded proceedings to “summarize” as they see fit. Stewards’ hearings should also be subject to CA Open Meetings Act as agents of CHRB. CHRB says no, they act only in “advisory” capacity, even though they make rulings and assess penalties. Maybe you could get your buddy Jerry to pursue this one?

        • victor stauffer

          Hearings before the California stewards are open to the public.

          • Red Rider

            CHRB meetings are open to public. Stewards’ hearings are not. Reports (minutes) of stewards’ hearing are available to public in edited and condensed form as previously noted.

          • victor stauffer

            Red, I am a steward in California. Our hearings are open to the public. In fact, the minutes of each hearing will reflect all who were in attendance. It’s not unusual in high profile cases to have members of the media attend. Support from friends or family of the complainant often happens or just interested members of the public. I attended many hearings both before and after being named a steward. Wanted to be a prepared as possible when I conducted one myself.

          • Red Rider

            I thought you were track announcer and former steward. Maybe hearings used to be open, but not now. I know the SoCal stewards and their meetings are not open. Not only did I attempt to attend and was refused entry by the stewards’ secretary, but was also told by Mr. Ward in the presence of the other two stewards that meetings were not open to the public You couldn’t get three jockeys and a small dog in the BHP hearing room, anyway.

            I also have the email from Mr. Miller stating that stewards meeting are not subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act because stewards are “advisers” to the CHRB and not acting on behalf of the CHRB. I consider his answer nonsense. Since I never intend to race in CA again I have not pursued the matter, further.

          • victor stauffer

            Red, perhaps you’re confusing meetings with hearings. You are back and forth many times using both terms. They are not the same thing. Maybe that’s where the confusion and your frustration emanates . Stewards do conduct closed door meetings. Perhaps with a member of the board, track management, an investigator or to help a licensee who has a problem. Those conferences are not necessarily open to the general public. By contrast an administrative hearing before the stewards is certainly open to anyone who chooses to attend.

            BTW, you’re correct about the BHP stewards office. Pretty small. Santa Anita as well. I’ve seen instances where hearings with larger attendance were moved to board rooms with much more space.

          • Red Rider

            Semantics. I am referring to hearings, where stewards review cases, assess fines and/or suspensions, etc. They are not open to the public. John Q. cannot just walk in and sit down. The secretary will stop you. I was told by her when I informed her they were supposed to be public hearings, “only if you are invited”. For hearings with sufficient the publicity the stewards may feel compelled to open the meetings. Like their other decisions they are totally arbitrary. Get someone off the street and have them show up at a “hearing”. See if they get in. Your perspective and access differs from what the average person or an unwanted owner will experience.

            I just hope I live long enough to see SA and Del Mar become housing projects and/or shopping centers like BHP. Bus stations would be okay, too.

          • victor stauffer

            Final thought because you seem to be getting very angry. It is not semantics. Meetings and Hearings are two totally different occurrences. John Q or Jane Q or any other member of the public is welcome to attend any administrative ” hearing ” the stewards conduct. They don’t have to have any special access or even know a secret handshake. They must simply show up on time. Request to observe and maintain proper decorum. Very similar to any other courtroom in our great country. I’m sorry you had trouble the time you wished to attend. I’m sure someone as passionate as you doesn’t really want our great California tracks to become bus stops. Such passion can only come from a true fan which I’m sure down deep that’s what you are. Thanks for trading views and information in a respectful manner. All the best to you. VJS

          • Red Rider

            Unfortunately, I am not the only individual to have experienced a “lock out”.

            Perhaps if you were the among the current active stewards in SoCal or a CHRB board member the situation and my opinion of SoCal racing would be different. Thank you for your insights.

  • Sampan

    It’s the Stewards job to apply the rules of racing as they see fit.
    They may miss something or have applied the wrong rule which can happen.
    It’s the responsibility of the Executive Director to oversee the Board of Stewards.
    If, after discussing the problem or issue with the Board of Stewards.
    The Exec. Dir. can appeal the Board of Stewards decision or lack thereof before the Commission.
    The Commission will hold a hearing with all parties involved and rectify the decision if necessary.
    If a Steward is not displaying good judgement, carrying out their duties in a responsible manner or acting in an unsatisfactory manner, they can be fired or their contract not renewed for conduct detrimental to the best interest of racing.

  • Christine

    In all errors for whatever reason no one in an official capacity is accountable. 2 years ago my horse was scratched as the favorite in a 5 horse field at the gate by mistake. The horse next to her flipped in the gate and was injured. My horse was unloaded and circling with the rest of the field and stewards did not wait for vet to examine her just hit scratch button. Never got an apology. On the contrary was told vet scratched horse which was untrue and never compensated for jocks mount or anything. Would have been swept away if I did not insist on an investigation which guess what turned up no wrong doing but supposedly a change in procedures.
    I on the other hand have been fined for being late to the paddock , not having a current coggins etc as I know most trainers have had the same. One way street.
    I applaud you for bringing this up.
    A good question for state racing boards.

  • GregS

    Hey Vic, could you put in the word to allow those us standing around the finish line to actually hear your great calls of the races and the rationales behind the lousy stewards decisions? The best sound on the property is in the parking lot. I know Liebau and friends don’t care, but us fans of your work would like to enjoy the remaining days by hearing your calls.

    • victor stauffer

      Mr. Liebau does care. I’ll mention it to our sound man.

  • Larry Loonin

    Races are often won or lost as the gates spring open. There are a few jockeys at a couple of tracks who seemingly can’t control their mounts while leaving the gate, yet the stewards rarely put up the inquiry sign for these serious moments of interference. Those instances in deep stretch when horses are often tiring and jockeys are whipping away I see as judgement calls though of course I understand that jockeys are doing just about everything they can to win. I’d like to see a system where the finish line determines the winner of all races and fines and suspensions are handed out after the race is declared official.

  • chispy

    Who’s judging the judges? Usually no one. In Illinois we have three stewards. One is hired by the “association” meaning the track. It is naïve to think there won’t be instances where he isn’t thinking about the potential blowback by the track, based on some decision he’s making. After all, it could impact his re-hire! And it’s very difficult to get a good steward’s job in this industry. Of the two state stewards, one is titled Senior. It is naïve to think the Senior’s opinion doesn’t influence the Junior’s opinion since the Junior, like the association steward, has continual re-employment concerns. Another related point. The state stewards “report” or “answer” to the executive director of the Illinois Racing Board. The ED spends no time at the tracks, and executes no supervision of his underlings unless some big issue arises. The stewards are the police, the judge, and jury. How about this: each steward has his own room, there is no conversation among them during an inquiry or objection, each votes, and no one, including the stewards, knows the votes until they are posted (with name) on the tote board and announced by the announcer.

  • trainer

    I thought it was common knowledge that in general the stewards do as they please and are a law unto themselves. I can remember running a horse in the last race at Ellis Park on a Friday, my jockey claimed foul, the stewards told him he should know better than to claim foul in the last race on a Friday evening, and delay their exit from the racetrack.

    • Red Rider

      Racing public is generally aware of arbitrary nature and incompetence. Public not fully aware that most are arrogant, supercilious, dictators .

  • August Song

    I attended the NYRA meeting for fans a couple of weeks ago, where people could discuss issues, and voice complaints and recommendations. Well, my exact question to the NYRA panel that day was, “Who stewards the stewards?”

    I related my own experience of meeting with the NYRA stewards about a corrupt horse partnership operation that was bilking the public. I brought along clear evidence, that I and a couple of other investors, had uncovered. The steward I met with, passed me on to another steward, because he “was busy working on a drug positive” with a horse/trainer. I met with the next steward in his office. I introduced myself and handed him papers/statements showing how investors were being scammed. The steward stood behind his desk. He didn’t sit down, and didn’t invite me to sit down either. He riffed through the papers, not really looking, saying “I don’t see anything.” Then, he tossed the papers across his desk at me.

    I pointed out to the NYRA panel, that the NYRA stewards represent NYRA, The Jockey Club, and the New York Gaming Commission (previously the NYSR&WB). The NYRA stewards don’t represent the public, or the bettor. The stewards were more interested in having the corrupt racing operation continue to fill NYRA’s entry boxes and starting gates with horses, than act in a responsible manner for the public and the sport of thoroughbred horse racing.

    So, who stewards the stewards? Obvious to me, nobody. A person on the NYRA panel offered that the steward design, was decided by Albany. Yep, no corruption going on there, right? They always represent the public to the fullest, and never try to take advantage of them, right?

    My recommendation to the NYRA panel was to have 1, or 2, people that the public elects to be added to, and join, the current NYRA stewards board.

    • Red Rider

      California stewards on loan to New York?

    • August Song

      As a follow-up, one of the audience members at the NYRA fan meeting that I attended, asked me for a copy of what I had cobbled together the night before, and which, I read to the NYRA panel. He asked me to type it out, and mail it to him, because it was “the perfect type of issue,” that members of his association would be interested in. I called him the other night to see if he had seen, and read, Ray’s article. I pointed out that it was along the “same lines,” as to what I had presented. He said he had already scanned my letter, and sent it to members, and had received “some very positive feedback.”

      One of the association’s stated goals is: “Give each fan, regardless of involvement, a voice to the industry regarding their interests in the betterment of the sport.”

      Let’s see if anything comes out of it, but clearly, more and more people/fans are becoming very upset about a flaw in a system, that really does not represent the fan, or the bettor, and has proven that stewards are rarely accountable to anyone, at any time. United States presidents can get impeached. Most people work for a living, and usually are not their own boss, and are overseen by somebody. And those stewards? Who stewards the stewards? The answer is nobody, and at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, they’re only representing NYRA, The Jockey Club, and the New York Gaming Commission. The public and the bettor are left out.

  • RedShoesGirl

    you gotta love a loose horse that comes under the wire second. what a girl! she was so far back, went to the outside and just ran past them all.

    • RedShoesGirl

      wonder what would happen if we just put a bunch of race horses in the gate, ring the bell and see who goes the furthest. jockeys? we don’t need no stinkin’ jockeys.

  • betting less and less

    Replay is the bane of incompetent and inconsistent officiating in all sports today but racing stewards still manage to emit the most rancid odor.

  • http://judgebork.wordpress.com Lou Baranello Former Steward

    Ray, You raise a very pertinent question. In my years in the stewards stand I was never evaluated and I don’t know of any steward that has. In order to make a fair and comprehensive evaluation of any steward’s work, I believe that the assessment should be done by someone with years of experience as a steward. Also I believe that a psychological profile should be done on people desiring to be stewards and I’m going to explain why. Over the years I worked with thirty two different stewards and, believe me, they come in all sizes,shapes and attitudes. Many stewards, are holding their jobs because of someone they know and a good share of those with and without a sponsor do not have the correct mindset for that kind of a job. Some of the stewards I worked with did an excellent job and were a credit to the position and to the entire industry. On the other hand some were almost constantly embroiled in personality conflicts, conflicts of interest and doing their best to hurt their enemies and help their friends through the position they held. A proper pre employment evaluation would keep most of those applicants out. To take things a step further, I also believe each steward should submit, in writing, why they voted as they did, on every issue, and explain their dissenting votes as well. Unfortunately the system in place to select stewards and racing commissioners allows anyone seen favorably by a governor to serve on a racing commission and anyone seeking work as a steward must be approved by those racing commissioners before being permitted to work. I feel that this very inadequate process is going to remain with us for quite a while

    • McGov

      Your comments are very insightful. It’s not hard to imagine how people in positions of authority abuse this position…it sounds like there little or no system in place to oversee and hold some level of accountability in most jurisdictions regarding stewards…other than one off politically driven removals…scary stuff.

      • http://judgebork.wordpress.com Lou Baranello Former Steward

        McGov, You have it exactly right right. Stakeholders in the industry should be demanding transparency, integrity and independent evaluations of the people who regulate them.

  • KY Fan

    Here’s another one, notably spotlighted by HRTV commentator Jeff Siegel re: Corie Lanery dangerously and intentionally putting Wise Dan into the hedge. Watch the head-on replay and you see him opening the left rein to steer into his path. Very abrupt and horse’s (Wise Dan’s) shoulder’s already into the hole there. Thank heavens neither horse nor rider hurt and a testimony to WD’s toughness. Nonetheless, jockey should have been fined.

    • RedShoesGirl

      or had days off. that was pretty bad.

      • Red Rider

        I saw the race and the head on. Maybe was the jockey, maybe was the horse lugging in. I have run horses that do that without reason or warning. Sometimes it looks like jockey “yanked” the horse. Sometimes yes, other times it is horse.

  • Red Rider

    Job qualification for steward: Know and please the right people so you get appointed.

    Qualifications for keeping job as steward: Know and please the right people.

    • RedShoesGirl

      at least he was being honest. but surely one has to know a bit about horse racing.

      • Red Rider

        Seems valid to assume, but you know what they say about assumptions. Who is “he”?

    • Oscetra

      Also, by the way, be “male”….I had a friend that went through Stewards school and after she finished, although highly quailfied even before the classes, was told she would never get hired being female.

      • RayPaulick

        I think this is changing, and it should. Chief steward in Kentucky is female. California has had a number of female stewards. Still far too male oriented but no longer a closed-door opportunity in every jurisdiction. Same with association/regulatory veterinarians. That may be changing faster.

  • Jay Stone

    Ray, good to see your report gets so much comment And feedback. It seems like most of the comments are basically against the stewards and some are fairly Knowledgeable. This is a highly emotional and contentious Subject. If you attend the races enough you will eventually have a Horse disqualified that you don’t think deserves to be disqualified. The truth is you have humans making decisions So there will always be mistakes. Most of these positions are political gifts or somebody Hiring a friend. Oversight is extremely lax and in a few highly controversial cases years ago There were immediate dismissals. A couple of these cases were in NY and one was in Chicago. The truth of the matter is these people always find another job. Many of these people attend steward’s school where they are given a quick education. The biggest question they usually face is whether the action of one horse affected the finish of another. I believe the most we can ever really ask for is that they are consistent in their actions be they right or wrong

  • Eric

    I challenge anyone to watch the stretch drive of Delta race 2 on 7/4 and explain why the winner was placed 4th instead of 3rd.

    • Andy

      the only thing I can guess on is that with the 7 slamming into the 2/4 that the path of whatever finished 4th was they thought compromised in some way….that’s my best guess; but I do not know what the rules are in LA…..
      best thing to do is just email Delta Downs and ask for a explanation.

  • mred001

    charles towns judges either need glasses or quit drinking while working

  • Andy

    being a steward/judge in horse racing (harness or thoroughbred) is kinda being a baseball umpire or football/basketball official….doesn’t matter if you screw up or not, make or don’t make a call, it is your job until you retire and the most they ever get is a slap on the wrist. It is a joke when they look at something for 10/15mins, then do nothing!?!…seriously after all that nothing….all tracks should have a mandatory 5 min rule with a inquiry/objection…can’t make a decision, oh well, the race stands and we move on…..

  • Ben H

    I would like to see stewards at most tracks in NA take a closer look at these riders that do not ride to the finish. Quite often costing bettors money when it comes to the place, show & super bets. It drives me crazy when they do nothing about it. A national head Steward to oversee the rest would be nice. Thanks for bringing up a great point.

  • Mister C

    My two biggest complaints: 1-inconsistency 2-contempt for the betting public.
    Regarding No. 1, what constitutes a disqualification on Saturday doesn’t necessarily result in a DQ on Sunday. This more than anything infuriates and frustrates horseplayers and jockeys from coast to coast. And many of these decisions are explained very poorly to racing fans.
    No. 2, An almost universal lack of wagering rules and mechanics, compounded by “cost the horse a better placing” judgments that only protect owners’ money.

  • Memories of Puchi

    I have long been an advocate of public explanations by the stewards. On the track TVs. (A la football decisions. ) the earlier post suggesting written reports published on the Internet is excellent.

  • Eddie Donnally

    Good article Ray. As one who rode races for nearly 20 years, I was always amazed at the difference in what various sets of stewards considered a foul worthy of disqualification. There were a lot of conservations among riders about who would be tough on this or that and who would give the same thing a pass. Most riders knew that former jockeys made the toughest stewards and Teddy Atkinson in Chicago was notorious. I think he was the steward that gave Ronnie Turcotte days, denying him the opportunity to ride Secretariat in his final race. Just as with referees in other professional sports, there is a degree of subjectivity in calls. Your call to have them stewards be more accountable is worth considering and calling attention to blatant examples is great, but in the end judgments will always be judgments and track stewards, who should be experts, will always have differing opinions. (As many suspensions as I had as a rider, never thought I’d be defending track stewards)

    Eddie Donnally: “Ride the White Horse: A Checkered Jockey’s Story of Racing, Rage and Redemption.”

  • glenn levante

    watch 5th race at Saratoga why no jockeys objection or stewards inquiry 7 on outside closing 2 coming out bumping down stretch wonder why new York racing is always in question then in 7th race out of town jockey now an inquiry unbelievable

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