The Men Behind the Curtain

By Gene Kershner, EquiSpace

It's puzzling to me.

Back in September, Gathering the Wind had an excellent post titled with another word I had to look up (stochastics) regarding horse racing stewards and how they are simply out of the public eye. This being unlike the big four, wherein the referees or umpires must make a call in plain view and in the case of hockey and football are miked to explain the foul or decision at hand. This is especially evident in NFL instant replay situations wherein a challenge is made by a coach, the referee looks at the replays and talks to the booth upstairs and then informs the crowd and television network of the call and the basis for it (sometimes even citing the rule book).

John Pricci also was torqued up about it this summer after the sting of being disqualified out of three investment wagers by the stewards on the same day!!  He went on to write:

"Whenever a disqualification occurs, a written explanation should be made public. Such transparency is something that many segments of the racing media have been imploring the tracks to do for years. The problems facing the game, as everyone knows, are myriad. This is an easy one to fix, but nobody will step up and do the right thing. The majority of Mother Goose betting public lost about a half-million dollars on a bad call."

Pricci went on in his post to blast the New York State Racing & Wagering Board (ala Steve Crist) and we've heard nothing since then. After a little digging I found that in Australia, the stewards file written reports made public daily. Here is an example from Gosford Racecourse. That would seem to be step one to eliminate the transparency and provide some accountability by reporting the decisions made during the day's card in a written format.

Another idea would be to take a page from the NFL, and when an inquiry is made that it is first disclosed to the fans and broadcast/simulcast viewership by the stewards (who made the inquiry and what it was) and then the decision be announced disclosing the reason for either ignoring the inquiry or for taking down the horse(s) in question.  The decision would be clear to all in attendance as to the reason and wouldn't be the mystery that it is now.

It would be a first step for the regulators to start including it on their agendas, as it has been something that seems to be brought up every time there is a questionable decision and is brewing in the horseplayer ranks.  It would be best to give the accountability some consideration before something happens in a really big race (see Breeders Cup or Triple Crown race), which is usually what it takes before something changes.

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