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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Kim Kelly is the Chief Stipendiary Steward of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, an organization that understands how important uniform rules and enforcement are in creating and maintaining the confidence of the wagering public.

Mr. Kelly spoke at the annual Jockey Club Round Table in Saratoga on the significance of having a set of guidelines to exist throughout the world with respect to adjudicating fouls, specifically what should qualify as a riding infraction and what should not.

HRI executive editor John Pricci wrote an editorial in favor of the U.S. rules as they currently exist.

The following is Mr. Kelly’s counterpoint rebuttal. HRI thanks him for his willing participation in furthering this important racing conversation

By Kim Kelly

I refer to the article titled “U.S. Has Foul Rules Right which appeared in “”. Whilst I very much respect the fundamental right of any person, organization or publication to their opinion on any matter, there are aspects of the story which I would like to comment on in my capacity of Chairman, International Harmonisation of Racing Rules Committee.  And I am appreciative of the opportunity to be able to provide those comments.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Firstly, for the purpose of clarification, the Category 1 interference Rule does not just relate to interference which prevents “the fouled horse from winning the race” or the “clearly best winner”.  It applies to all placings in which either betting and/or prizemoney applies and acknowledges the most deserving horse in its respective placing.

The mechanics of Category 1 provide that for a protest/objection to be successful the Racing Stewards (“the Stewards”) must be satisfied that if Horse A caused interference to Horse B, Horse B would have finished in front of Horse A if the interference did not occur.  The Rule does not discriminate between first placing and the remaining placings.

From the outset I would like to advise that neither Category 1 nor 2 is able to adjudicate on interference in a perfect manner as far as the placings of the race are concerned.  There are aspects to ruling on the ability of horses to achieve the best possible placing following interference in a race which neither Category is able to remedy to the satisfaction of all impacted stakeholders.  But Category 1 has been clearly demonstrated to have yielded more consistent and fairer outcomes.

In respect of the commentary addressing the most recent Kentucky Derby result, the article concedes that WAR OF WILL finishing in front of MAXIMUM SECURITY if not for the interference would have been “highly unlikely”.  I fully accept that nobody can ever know what would or would not have eventuated if not for the interference the reality is that this situation applies to both categories under which interference is adjudicated.  What is required of Stewards is to make an objective decision based on what facts there are available to them, such as:

   1- Did interference occur which impacted on the relevant horses, ·         where did the interference occur?

2- How were the respective horses travelling at the time of the incident(s)?

   3- How easily did the horse which caused the interference beat the horse(s) which it caused trouble to?

   4- What were the margins at the end of the race?

Once all these factors are properly considered then the Stewards should be in a position to take an informed position as to whether they can be satisfied to the requisite degree that if not for the interference then the relevant result of the race would have been different.

It simply cannot be known whether any of the horses which were interfered with by MAXIMUM SECURITY may have finished in front of that horse if not for the interference.  But what is known is that those horses finished 8th, 14th and 17th with their respective beaten margins being 4¼ lengths, 14¾ lengths and 17¾ lengths.  Having regard to the fact that all of the relevant horses had the entire length of the Home Straight to make ground on the winner, the margins between the winner and those horses is compelling.

An obvious concern which has been raised by many is safety and I have read concerns that a move from Category 2 to Category 1 will result in “win at all costs” riding by jockeys.  The point has to be made here that the safety and welfare of participants, both human and equine, is clearly the principal responsibility of a Steward.  No professional Steward worthy of the position would adhere to an interference philosophy if it resulted in safety and welfare being compromised in any way.  It is my firm belief, and that of the majority of racing jurisdictions, that the Category 1 interference rule does not lead to increased interference in races.

In 2013 the Japan Racing Association (“the JRA”) implemented the change from Category 2 to Category 1.  During the period 1 July 2010 through to 30 June 2011, when operating under Category 2 there were 213 protest/objection rulings of which there were 33 changes to the placings of races.  

During this period there were 38 charges issued for breaches of the careless riding Rule which may or may not have related to the aforementioned protest/objections. During the period 1 July 2018 until 30 June 2019, with the JRA operating under Category 1 there were just 8 protest/objection hearings which resulted in only 3 changes of placings.  Significantly, there were 34 charges issued for breaches of the careless riding Rule, 4 less than when that country operated under the Category 2 philosophy.  Again, it is not known whether these breaches related to protest/objection matters.  But what is known is that the incidence of careless riding did not increase when operating under Category 1, in fact it decreased slightly.

To adopt the position that Category 1 results in ‘win at all costs’ riding necessarily infers that racing in prominent racing jurisdictions such as Australia, Dubai, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and all of the South American O.S.A.F. member jurisdictions, all of which operate under Category 1, conduct racing which is not as safe as racing which is conducted under Category 2.  These countries are home to many of the world’s iconic races and many of which lead the world in betting turnover.  Would those racing authorities allow their races to be conducted in an unsafe manner?  Would bettors continue to support racing in those countries if their bets were constantly affected by interference?  Would Owners continue to support racing if their horses were repeatedly subject to interference which was impacting on safety and welfare and which was impacting on the opportunities of their horses to perform to their optimum?  Would most of the world’s top rated Jockeys continue to ride in jurisdictions where the rewards for winning races was placed above safety and welfare?

The jurisdictions which have recently shifted to Category 1, namely France and Japan are countries with tote-based betting, with “exotic” wagering pools being popular with bettors as it is throughout Asia, where betting turnover is extremely high.  The transition to Category 1 has been well-received in France and Germany with the acceptance by Japanese bettors being well-documented.  It is noteworthy that each of those countries has experienced a notable reduction in customer complaints regarding Stewards’ decisions.

So is there less interference in races conducted under Category 2 than other jurisdictions operating under Category 1?

During 2018 there were 39,712 thoroughbred races conducted in North America which resulted in the placings of races being changed on 617 occasions due to interference.  This amounted to interference occurring once in every 64 races which resulted in a change of placings.  By comparison, Australia conducted 19,409 races for 248 protest/objections with just 51 amended placings.  This amounted to a protest/objection being entered once in every 78 races and interference in races which resulted in a change of placings every 380 races.  Whilst these figures do not provide for the individual circumstances relating to the interference (i.e. due to either horse or rider) and are without doubt multifactorial, they do not support a contention that Category 1 results in more instances of careless riding, in a “win at all costs” approach by Jockeys in races.

It is my respectful opinion that the Australian statistics support the JRA experience that Category 1 does not result in increased interference in races.

Irrespective of the interference philosophy under which a jurisdiction operates it is necessary for a robust penalty regime to be in place to serve the dual purpose of penalising Jockeys who ride without due care whilst also providing an appropriate deterrent against careless, reckless or dangerous riding to all riders.

Finally, if there are concerns regarding an increase in dangerous riding as a result of a move to Category 1 there is the following provision in the Model Interference Rule contained within the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing & Wagering to accommodate this concern: “Racing Authorities may, within their Rules, provide for the disqualification of a horse from a race in circumstances in which the Staging Authority’s relevant judicial body deems that the rider has ridden in a dangerous manner.”

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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

2 Responses

  1. Mr. Kelly, the fact that “the Category 1 interference Rule does not just relate to interference which prevents ‘the fouled horse from winning the race’ or the ‘clearly best winner’. It applies to all placings in which either betting and/or prize money applies and acknowledges the most deserving horse in its respective placing” is a significant clarification.

    As it was explained to the U.S. racing public in other media, the notion that “prevents the fouled horse from winning the race” was, indeed, in the language of the moment, “fake news” at worst, a misinterpretation at least.

    Your explanation lends a deeper understanding to your position. Again, HRI would like to thank you for your time and effort.

    John Pricci, HRI executive editor

  2. John: I’m sorry but I do not agree with this notion of a “category 1” infraction. As far as I am concerned, the so-called “best” horse in any race is a horse that finishes first, without committing an infraction that MATERIALLY affects the finishing position of any other horse in the race. I do not believe that Maximum Security’s obvious foul did not materially affect the outcome of the Ky Derby. Moreover, the citation of lengths beaten, as Mr. Kelly, as well as many others, utilize in an attempt to minimize Maximum Security’s foul, is a cynical use of such statistics. It is an completely impossible task to attempt to estimate the effects of the interference on the horses that were fouled.
    As we can see from the overuse of instant replay, no adjudicative system is without its flaws. However, mindlessly declaring who the”best” horse is, in any situation involving a foul, is a fool’s errand.

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