Racing Stewards are a peculiar bunch.
We need them on race day, absolutely, no question.
But do we need them to be like this?
As Winx and Kiamichi were doing their wondrous things at Rosehill, a few trainers, jocks, horses, punters and officials went to Ardlethan for a day of Picnic racing.
Ardlethan is just down the road a few clicks from Griffith…or up the road a few kilometres from Temora in NSW. It just depends how you look at it.
Six races were conducted and here’s how the Stewards involved themselves.
Leading Picnic rider Jody Hughes (5 winners from past 14 rides and 6 placegetters), who rode three winners on the day, including Dream On Stan in one of the main races, was fined $100. She was also reprimanded for using the stick too many times in another race.
But let’s look at the fine.
She was hauled into the stewards’ holy of holies after the second race on the card. She rode a horse called March Ahead and it was in a maiden over 1000m.
Prior to the start of the race, her main rival called Manna Mil decided to pin her ears back, lash out and refuse to load. Stewards, to their credit, persisted and persisted but in the end, Manna Mil, who was having her 3rd start, wanted nothing to do with racing this day, and so was scratched at the barrier. Stewards have advised her connections that she must trial to the satisfaction of the stewards before ever racing again.
So Hughes, feeling a lot happier as her task was made a lot easier, walked her mount March Ahead into the gates.
The horse, having his 7th race track appearance, jumped away well and travelled sweetly on the bridle all the way. Hughes didn’t even need to click him up down the running. Ears pricked her cruised to the wire as he was approaching the winning post, and I’ve seen footage of this, the rider raised her left hand in a victory salute.
The horse was just half a length shy of the post when this occurred.
Back to the enclosure both Jody Hughes and March Ahead trotted, beaming from the run, but as she unsaddled him the Chairman of Stewards, Mr J. Shultz, asked her to come into the holy of holies for a please explain.
Hughes said she had raised her hand, so was guilty and subsequently was fined $100 for the victory salute – which is in the rules of racing. However – it’s there because it is deemed potentially an unsafe action.
But, here’s the thing.
This was a Picnic meeting. This was a low-key non-demonstrative gesture and this was done pretty much as the horse crossed the line.
Oh….one more thing. March Ahead and Jody Hughes were the ONLY ones in the race after Manna Mil was scratched.
It was a walk over.
It was officialdom gone mad.
Two riders form this meeting were suspended also – arising from incidents in other races.
Each one of them: John Wilson and Steve Kehoe were outed for excessive whip use.
Which is fair as the world is closing in on whip use.