When it comes to horse racing Hong Kong is a respected jurisdiction. The officials there are among the best in the world. One such official is now stepping forward in an effort to help the US address a problem in horse racing. Measures are being discussed that could help US horse racing stewards do a better job in settling objections.
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The Chief Steward of the Hong Kong Jockey Club
Kim Kelly is one of the most important racing stewards in the world. As the chief steward of the Hong Kong Jockey Club his primary duty is to guarantee the fairness of horse racing in Hong Kong. Kelly and other stewards watch races to determine if they are contested fairly with no fouls. When a foul occurs, the stewards must take action to quickly resolve the matter.
Kelly has seen literally thousands of fouls in his time as chief steward. It is hard to imagine a scenario that he has not seen before. When Kelly saw the 2019 running of the Kentucky Derby, he was concerned about the method used in US horse racing to determine the winner when a foul has been committed.
The opinions of Kelly are ones that the US might want to consider given his extensive experience in horse racing. Kelly has suggested a possible solution that would prevent poor decisions in the wake of a similar incident as the Kentucky Derby.
Resolving Objections in Horse Racing
For those who may not be aware, the 2019 Kentucky Derby was marred by an incident that involved a foul committed by one horse against another. Maximum Security was the winner of the race until stewards determined that the horse had interfered with the progress of another horse. Maximum Security was disqualified and the second place horse was awarded the win.
While many agreed that Maximum Security did indeed commit a foul, others believe that his disqualification placement was unmerited. They point to the existence of a horse racing standard known as Category One which is used in most other countries in the world to place a horse after it has fouled another.
Under the Category One system, stewards must determine if the horse that was impeded had a chance to finish ahead of the horse that fouled it if no foul had been committed. In the case of Maximum Security, few believe that the horse impeded would have been able to finish higher than Maximum Security. Under those rules, Maximum Security would not have been disqualified from the race.
Kim Kelly believes that Maximum Security was the dominant horse in the Kentucky Derby. Kelly believes that no other horse in the race had a chance to finish ahead of Maximum Security, therefore the claim of foul should have had no bearing on the horse’s finish position.
US Uses a Different Standard for Horse Racing Objections
The US is different from most horse racing jurisdictions in that it uses a Category Two standard for resolving objections in horse racing. In this type of system the offending horse is “taken down” or removed from its winning position and all other horse finish positions are adjusted accordingly.
Kelly stressed in his opinion that the horse racing stewards in Kentucky were justified in removing Maximum Security from the Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs because the Category Two standard allowed them to do so. Kelly simply feels that the Category One horse racing objection method is more fair to both horse owners and bettors.
The International Federation of Horse Racing is an organization of which Kim Kelly is chairman. The federation is scheduled to have a round table meeting of all its members in the US in 2019. Kelly has invited the US delegate of the federation to participate in discussions of why the system used in Hong Kong to resolve horse racing objections is more fair to all involved.
Is Hong Kong Racing More Fair?
This subject will promote a conversation among horse racing fans about whether horse racing in Hong Kong is more fair than racing in other parts of the world. Those who believe it is will point to the region’s handling of horse racing objections as the reason why.
Fewer things can be more frustrating for a bettor than to lose a winning wager because of an objection. Yet, this is the way things are. There must be some rules in place to insure that all jockeys and trainers play fair. In the US this unfortunately causes many horses to be disqualified from winning, even when they were the best horse in the race.
Here is an example. Let’s say that a horse fouled another horse on the backstretch in the early stages of a race. The guilty horse went on the win the horse race by many lengths while the fouled horse never posed a threat to any of its rivals and finished last. Is it fair for the rider or trainer of the impeded horse to claim foul? In the US this claim could mean that the winning horse is taken down even though doing so accomplishes nothing more than penalizing bettors, owners, and trainers.
The point here is that the Category Two method of dealing with objections is subject to manipulation in some instances. In most cases an objection involves the winner of the race. You rarely see horses in second or third place accused of a foul, although it can happen. It is practically unheard of for horses that finished worse than fourth to be the target of an objection. Why is this?
The reason for this is that there is no value to the owner or trainer in filing such an objection. If the horse is taken down from its low finish position, the result of the purse distribution or the betting outcome is no so much affected. When the horse is the winner, a successful objection has more dramatic implications.
Kim Kelly is not suggesting that horses who commit fouls should be given any kind of special treatment. A foul is a foul and should be punished. But there are ways to punish those who commit fouls of no importance the outcome of a race. Many a jockey has been suspended or fined for poor riding. In this way the horse and its connections are not denied a win because something happened that had no effect on other horses’ finish positions.
Horse racing is a rough and tumble sport. One could argue that an objection could be filed in every race if the riders wanted to do that. Most of them accept that rough riding will happen and only claim foul in the most serious violations of the rules.