New white paper addresses controversial stewards rulings

Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

Arguably outside of the Horse of the Year debate, racing’s biggest controversies this season have involved stewards’ decisions in prominent Grade 1 races. Namely, there was Monomoy Girl’s disqualification from a win in the Cotillion Stakes and the preceding lack of change in Abel Tasman’s victory in Saratoga’s Personal Ensign.

While there’s a case to be made for both sides of the decision, what was clear is there is no way to know what the stewards are looking for when reviewing incidents and how they make their calls. The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation focused on this subject in its latest white paper, studying the reviewed incidents in North America and around the world. 

In “TIF Reports: Changing the Rules: Clarity and consistency in the adjudication of North American racing is possible with a shift to the Category 1 philosophy,” the TIF points out that the U.S. and Canada are the only racing jurisdictions around the world to not adopt a Category 1 philosophy when adjudicating races, and argues why they should make the switch from Category 2.

The International Federation of Horse Racing Authority defines Category 2, what North America currently follows, as:

“Countries whose Rules provide that if the interferer is guilty of causing interference and such interference has affected the result of the race then the interferer is placed behind the sufferer irrespective of whether the sufferer would have finished in front of the interferer had the incident(s) not occurred.”

Category 1 is defined below:

“If, in the opinion of the Staging Authority’s relevant judicial body, a horse or its rider causes interference and finishes in front of the horse interfered with but irrespective of the incident(s) the sufferer would not have finished ahead of the horse causing the interference, the judge’s placings will remain unaltered.”

In arguing for North America to make the switch, the TIF recognizes the “fairness and equity” allowed in Category 2 versus the “certainty and consistency” in Category 1. The organization also explains how Category 1 benefits the best horse in the race and how Category 2 can have a negative impact on future races when clear winners are taken down.

“Adopting Category 1 across North America would yield a sport with a greater understanding of how a race is adjudicated,” the TIF writes, “far fewer instances in which the stewards are called upon to review a race, fewer demotions, comes with an enhanced penalty structure for jockeys guilty of careless riding and increased confidence for all stakeholders in the adjudication of the race.”

In its white paper, the TIF highlights the perspective of stewards, jockeys, bettors, owners and more on the current landscape of adjudicating races in North America compared to races where the Category 1 philosophy is applied.

Download the full report here, or read in full below:


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