LOOK SHARPE

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

LOOK SHARPE: Inquiring Into Stewards Enquiries

Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…

BROWSING ON TWITTER I came across a contributor called The Barstewards Enquiry aka @BarstewardsThe …. should you want to take a look, it is a very quirky racing and betting-themed site, with some 4,000 followers, and is actually a grouping of several like-minded observers of the racing and betting scenes.

They are not, of course, related to the official Stewards who adjudicate on events at race meetings, and who are also often prone to surprising outbreaks of quirky decisions.

Take, for example, the Stewards at Kilbeggan, on duty recently when one of the races featured an incident involving the much praised, and usually brilliant jockey, Rachael Blackmore.

On this occasion, reported the Racing Post: ‘The Kilbeggan Stewards decided to take no action against Rachael Blackmore for appearing to mistake the winning post a circuit early during a race, surprising many racegoers and those viewing the race online or on-screen.’

And also despite racecourse commentator James Griffin noticing this odd occurrence, and declaring: “Rachael Blackmore just having a look over her shoulder, I think she may have mistaken the winning post”

However, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board later stepped in and announced they *WOULD* investigate the matter further.

There was another example within the last week as jockey Jody McGarvey declared himself ‘shocked’ by the Stewards’ decision – which the Racing Post described as ‘controversial’ – not to reverse the outcome of a Killarney novice chase after a rival, Saldier, crashed into his mount Vina Ardanza over the last. Shocked connections immediately decided on lodging an appeal.

Declared David Jennings, Deputy Ireland Editor, in the Racing Post: ‘The stewards weren’t going to bother holding an inquiry at all but, on third thoughts after almost 11 minutes, they announced one. Saldier somehow kept the race despite a room full of referees agreeing that the winner had caused interference. The stewards’ report read: “On the balance of probabilities, he had not improved his finishing position as a result of this interference.”

That’s patently nonsense.

Of course, there are two sides to most stories, but frequent events of this nature over the years have resulted in Stewards receiving the occasional, ever so slightly critical comment from different elements of the sport which they oversee.

Stewards themselves have not always welcomed intervention from outside affecting or criticising their own activities, such as in May, 1994, when jockey-turned sculptor and Windsor Steward, Philip Blacker was not best pleased that racecourse manager Sally Dingle was attempting to ban alcohol from the Stewards’ hospitality area.

‘I object strongly. I’m not a naughty schoolboy and expect to be trusted when doing a responsible job. Drinking is not allowed in the Stewards’ Room, and it’s our guests who would suffer – the Queen Mother is a frequent guest and wouldn’t get her gin and tonic.’

A fellow former jockey, who was frequently in hot water with officialdom, John Francome was not over-enamoured by Stewards, and was unlikely ever to be invited to become one after his suggestion that ‘The Jockey Club have issued a writ against the Texan who introduced Cabbage Patch Dolls. They claim they have been making them for years – and calling them Stewards.’ Important note here,ย for the benefit of younger readers – these were gargoyle-like cloth dolls which were all the rage for a while in the early 1980s!

Stewards must, I imagine, also get a good number of inquiries about whether Stewards Enquiries are actually Steward’s, or Stewards’, Enquiries, or Inquiries?

Very few of us know for sure which is correct, and what, in any case, the difference might be – and one (me) would offer long odds about every Steward, or even a majority of them, knowing.

Permit me to explain. To ‘inquire’ means ‘to make a search or investigation’ – and that would seem to fit the bill, wouldn’t it?
But, ‘to ‘enquire’, my dictionary assures me, means ‘to seek by questioning’. So either/both appear appropriate.

Upon referring to someone whose opinions and knowledge can be trusted, Gerald Hammond, Reader in English at the University of Manchester, I discover that, according to his ‘Book of Words’, unless, of course, it is just one Steward doing the ,er, enquiring, rather than inquiring, when it would have to be Steward’s, when they begin investigating in numbers, it definitely becomes a Stewards’ Enquiry.

Hammond added, possibly tongue in cheek, that: ‘The chief qualifications for being a Steward are that one should have been to a good school and should have no experience of riding horses in a race.’
Stewards were first officially appointed in 1770 – and a couple of the original appointees are rumoured still to be on the circuit to this day.

In 1875 Windsor Stewards came up with an inventive solution when, not being satisfied with the running of a horse named Nougat, they ordered that Nougat should be again raced against the winner, Carlos – ‘with different jockeys up, but over the same distance, carrying the same weights.’ This time Nougat won very easily. and his original jockey, Bobby Wyatt, was promptly suspended for two years! Not long after returning, Wyatt re-offended and lost his licence to ride ever again.

This was excellent Stewarding which many might support re-introducing.

In the 1890s, after a close finish between two horses,ย  the Stewards at a meeting in Gloucestershire, reported racing historian Brian Lee, ‘unable to make up their minds, requested the jockeys concerned to toss a coin to decide the result.’

Possibly not as excellent Stewarding.

The question of whether Stewards’ Enquiries should take place in full public view and hearing has always been controversial – although way back in 1919 one did take place in public when top jockey of the day, Steve Donoghue was beaten on red-hot favourite Diadem in the King George Stakes at Goodwood. The jockey himself complained that this was done as a sop to aggrieved punters, declaring ‘I should not think that the experiment was considered to have been so successful as to warrant it being established as a precedent.’

He did get off, though.

In 1996, the Navan Stewards oddly decided to caution jockey Miss F M Crawley ‘for the way she departed the stewards’ room’.
Liz Morris, a teenage American jockeyย  was fined $300 in August 2004 by Stewards at Arlington Park, Chicago when, after being cut up by Carlos Marquez Jr, she responded by thrashing his buttocks with her whip. Racecourse rumour scurrilously had it that some Stewards may have envied such treatment.

GRAHAM SHARPE


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.


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