Horse racing is a complex sport that requires the involvement of many people. There are horse trainers and jockeys. These are visible positions you might be familiar with. But did you know that there are many other people behind the scenes of horse racing? They work, often unseen, to make sure a racing day is carried out with no problems. Here are some of racing’s unsung heroes.
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Clerk of Scales
You will rarely see the Clerk of Scales outside the jockey’s room at a racetrack. This person is tasked with making sure every jockey is weighed before the racing day begins. The weight a horse carries, including the weight of the jockey, is listed in the Daily Racing Form. Before the races begin, the track announcer will loudly announce the changes for the program. Among these is which jockeys are overweight.
The Clerk of Scales also is charged with maintaining order in the jockey’s room. It can be an emotion-charged environment, one that is not immune to the occasional scuffle between jockeys who may have taken issue with each other’s riding tactics.
Each jockey has a personal valet who is responsible for doing menial tasks like laundry and shining the jockey’s racing boots. The valet also brings out the jockey’s riding saddle to the trainer before a race. Many of these individuals are fiercely loyal to their jockeys and are treated very well. They are sometimes paid a percentage of what a jockey earns during the week but can also be paid on a daily basis.
All racetracks employ an identifier who has the primary job of verifying horses in a race. As the horses enter the saddling paddock, the identifier will raise the lip of the horse to view a unique number which has been tattooed on the inside of the lip. This number is what identifies the horse and all racing thoroughbreds are required to have one before they are allowed to compete.
The identifier also maintains copies of a horse’s official papers from the Jockey Club. These are similar to the registration papers for other animals. Before a horse can race at a track, its papers must be turned in to the identifier.
The Racing Secretary has one of the most important jobs in all of horse racing. He or she manages the condition book or list of races for a race meeting. It is this person’s job to actually write the conditions for races on a given day. There must be an even mix of claiming, allowance, stakes, turf, and dirt events. There must be races for maidens and first-time starters. It is a daunting task to keep horsemen satisfied, and when the racing secretary does not card enough races in a certain category it makes trainers upset.
The Racing Secretary is also responsible for overseeing the racing office in general and supervising all of the employees that work there.
Entry clerks at a racetrack are responsible for just what their name suggests. They take entries for the various races. When a trainer wishes to enter their horse in a race they usually have a jockey agent tell the entry clerk. The agent will give the clerk the name of the horse, the name of the jockey, and the number of the race. All of this information is entered into a computer so that it can be sent to the Daily Racing Form and used to create the track program.
Many entry clerks also do double duty as a placing judge during the race card. These individuals sit high atop the racetrack in an office that allows them a full view of the track below. A placing judge verifies the order of finish and must correctly “place” the horses in their proper order before the race is made official and bettors can be paid. This includes looking at photo finish pictures when a race is too close to call with the human eye. Errors by a placing judge are rare but they do occasional happen. Chaos can result when the wrong horse is awarded the win because of a placing judge error.
A track steward is similar to a referee in other sporting contests. There are usually two of them working during a race meet. The track stewards must make sure that fairness is present and that no fouls were committed during a horse race. They also sit high above the track with a generous view of what is below.
The State Steward at a race track is one of the most powerful people in horse racing. They report directly to the State Racing Commission of each jurisdiction and their word is law. All on-track disputes end with the State Steward.
A State Steward also has the right to levy fines and suspensions to any individual working at the track. It is not a fun event to be called into the State Steward’s office. In the mornings before a race day begins, jockeys are often called before the State Steward to review films of the previous day’s races. Riding errors are pointed out and sometimes jockeys are given “days” or suspended for a short period of time.
You may not see any of these people when you visit a racetrack. You certainly won’t see them when you bet horses online. But know that they are there, working quietly behind the scenes of horse racing to make sure you have a good experience.
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