Tight call
Horse racing steward says adjudicating cases of interference a tricky ride
Horses thunder down the track at Caymanas Park. (Photo: Observer file)

Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) steward Antoine Nembhard says one of the most difficult and contentious decisions a panel has to make is to determine the result following interference during the running of competitive racing.

If the panel considers that interference might have affected the result, where the interferer might have improved his placing as a result of the interference, an enquiry must be made, which has the effect of freezing the 'payout' until the panel has come to its conclusion.

The stewards have to decide whether the sufferer would have beaten the interferer, but for the interferer, there are a series of factors to take into account — where did the incident take place during the running of the race? How were the horses involved in the interference going at the time of the incident? How serious was the interference?

After considering the relevant factors for the incident in question, if the panel is satisfied that the interference improved the position of the interferer in relation to the sufferer(s), the placements must be changed. Otherwise, the placements must remain unaltered.

"Interference doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a disqualification. There are different sanctions that can be imposed by the stewards when there is interference. But the rules are specific; the rules say that a horse or its rider shall be disqualified if he or she causes interference or intimidation in any part of the race," Nembhard told the Jamaica Observer.

"This means that you should look regardless of where the interference occurs. If you call it interference, which we believe cost the horse a better position, we have no choice but to disqualify because the rule expressly says we must," he added.

Nembhard stated that disqualification of horses is the very last resort for them (stewards), as they generally look for a reason not to disqualify a horse because too many people are going to be punished as a result of that decision and they had nothing to do with the incident.

"We try to find every reason possible not to disqualify, but if we are left with no other option, then we have to enforce the provisions of the rules. Other parties who had nothing to do with the interference are now being punished as a result of the disqualification.

"You are punishing an owner, you are punishing a trainer, you are punishing a groom, you are punishing the punters, and none of them had anything to do with the interference that may have been caused by the rider. And so, in our minds, we have to try as best as possible to ensure that the decision we are making doesn't unduly or unfairly punish connections.

"And so we look for reasons not to, but when we evaluate an incident and we are left with no option and everything is clear, then we have no choice but to enforce the provisions of Rule 201," Nembhard pointed out.

Under the rule on proceedings by the raceday stewards, licence holders are allowed to appeal the stewards' decisions to the JRC. It has been seen many times where horses are disqualified and connections appeal the decision of the stewards, and after the review of the incident, the disqualified horses are reinstated.

"We are employees of the commission, and they are within their rights to review what we do. If the commission, in their wisdom, finds that the stewards, in their opinion, don't agree with the outcome, then the provision of the rule allows for the reversal of that decision.

"Then certainly, when we are making the decision, we are not necessarily concerned about that, we have to do our jobs fairly and as equitably as we can to ensure that all parties get a fair outcome in the decision making process," Nembhard affirmed.

Nembhard also said that a jockey's objection at no point influenced the disqualification decision.

"If the stewards evaluate the claim of foul that they have made and find merit in what the rider has suggested, then the stewards are duty-bound to effect the provisions of the rule. But the jockey's objection in itself is not necessarily going to be used as the determinant to disqualify," he said.

Fresh Cash (Dane Dawkins) on the inside holding strong against the challenge of Broken Light and Omar Walker.
Nembhard...we try to find every reason possible not to disqualify, but if we are left with no other option, then we have to enforce the provisions of the rules.
Lady Budget (on the outside) with Calvin Bailey in the saddle nips Storm Valley (Phillip Parchment) on the line.
BY RUDDY ALLEN Staff reporter ruddya@jamaicaobserver.com

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