By guest contributor Todd Burmester
In my time following and attending the races, which spans over 20 years, protest decisions have always at times been controversial. I would suggest that the last 6 months however, the controversy of protest decisions has gone to a new level.
“Back in the day”, as a general rule of thumb, I felt that you really had to almost knock another horse over to lose on protest and in fact if I was second past the post and my runner lodged a protest, I often felt it was just prolonging the agony of running second.
Recently, we have seen what I would call, a number of questionable decisions. Now, what I would also like to say is that in all of the decisions I have questioned, I can in fact see both sides of the coin, so cannot categorically say that I feel any of the decisions were absolutely wrong. What does concern me a little is that it appears there is a change of logic in regards to how the decisions are made.
To my eye, it all started with The Railway Stakes protest decision, where He’s Remarkable lost the race under what a number of people, including myself, deemed to be questionable grounds. The Magic Millions protest decision followed not long after and more recently we have had “the Manawanui decision”. All of these in my opinion, had to have some doubt over them as to whether the horse who eventually gained the race would have won without the interference. In a lesser race, we recently saw Lady Lynette denied the opportunity to retire from racing as a last start winner due to a protest decision for interference some 1200m from home!
My question is this – Has the framework stewards work with in making these decisions changed? And if so, was this communicated to anyone? Do stewards have to be 100% of the opinion that without he interference, the impacted runner would have beaten the other, or is it a case of when one runner breaches the rules of racing, if that margin of interference is greater than the final margin of the race, the result is reversed?
If this is the framework we want to go with, I am not necessarily opposed to it, as I don’t believe you should necessarily be able to break the rules and get away with it, but this needs to be communicated to all.
It is interesting to listen to a couple of protest hearings recently where the rules of racing have been referred to by connections – so either they have cottoned onto this approach, or in fact this has been communicated. It seems to me that punters have been left out of the loop however, as I have had many conversations with confused punters as to how certain results were arrived at, and they have not all been talking through their pocket!