Official Inquiries, Objections, Protests & Complaints, Stewards List, Starters List, and Vets List
In the back of the Office of the Racing Secretary is a group of three men or women, of varied dispositions and backgrounds, charged by the State with the supervision “in every particular” of the conduct of the race meeting – its attendants and management, its enclosures, the races themselves, and the behavior of every one of its licensees (owners, trainers, veterinarians, jockeys and grooms). The actions they take to police racing become public knowledge, yet they remain isolated in aeries above the track, or in obscure offices “somewhere.” Most fans think of Stewards only as invisible ogres who have often wrecked a good pari-mutuel ticket by setting down or disqualifying a winning horse for some “infraction.” Owners, however, must regard them for what they are: Stewards have – and must use – the authority to levy fines, issue penalties, suspend licenses, bar individuals from the track, and temporarily remove horses from racing.
Stewards might also be looked upon as the Circuit Court of the racetrack. Everyone – from the grooms to competing stables to warring owner-partners – comes to them for the settlement of grievances, objections and financial complaints against one another. They are not the “final” court, however: any involved party wanting to appeal a matter decided by the Stewards can take its lawyers and go to the California Horse Racing Board for ultimate determination. As one veteran Steward put it, “It has been said that old-time licensees never dared ask for justice. Only mercy. Today, they do not only deserve due process, they damn well better get it.”
The Stewards’ responsibilities, all of which involve ensuring the “absolute integrity” of the sport, settle out into fairly predictable (often prescribed) categories. Following is a list of those categories, and the issues that most commonly come up under each.
These are the incidents everyone is familiar with – the ones which delay the posting of the “official” sign on the tote board and thereby the cashing of tickets and the owner’s jog down to the Winner’s Circle. The inquiry is also one of the three ways in which an owner can lose that purse he can already “taste” (for others, see “Protests” and “Medication Rules” below).
An inquiry can be called for by the Stewards themselves, by their Patrol Judges, by an owner or trainer of a horse in the running, or by a jockey.
The jockey may allege to either the 7/8ths turn judge or the Clerk of Scales that another jockey caused interference that affected the outcome of the race, or committed a whip violation. Although the Stewards have closely watched the race on TV monitors, are on walkie-talkies to their spotters (Patrol Judges), at the 1/8 pole and 3/8ths poles, and though they have re-run the videotape of the race during the time the horses are returning to the finish line, they will hold up the “Official” declaration if a jockey “in the running” alleges misconduct.
Likewise, any owner or trainer can use the racetrack’s Quick Lines (also called “Claim Foul Phones”) to request an Inquiry and delay the final race result until the Stewards are “certain.”
These most often concern the eligibility of a certain horse for entry in a race, and are usually made by competing stable.
In fact (other than the rare objections placed by racing officials), only owners or trainers with a horse in the same race can file an objection to a competing horse. “Objections” to the entry of any horse in a race must be made no later than one hour before post time, and must be confirmed in writing. According to the rule book, “Grounds for Objection” are as follows:
Protests are usually made against a horse that has already run in a race, and must be submitted in writing and signed by the protestor within 72 hours of the completion of the race (excluding, of course, non-racing days). Again, Protests can be made only by owners, trainers and jockeys with a horse entered in the same race (or by racing officials). Protests are akin to “Inquiry” requests. They are filed on the following bases:
Pending the outcome of the investigation of a protest, the Stewards can withhold the distribution of a purse. If a purse has already been distributed and the Stewards ultimately vote to disqualify a horse, all monies and prizes awarded to the horse must be returned and redistributed! Furthermore, all fines imposed by the Stewards must be paid by the “guilty” party, within 72 hours of being levied. (The fines are paid to the Paymaster of Purses, who keeps records of names and violations and forwards them, at the end of the meet, to the Secretary of the CHRB).
Believe it or not, the Stewards are most often called on for mediations between co-owners or partners. Where money or fame is concerned, even “friends” will war over whose silks the horse should race under, how much (or how little) the horse should be allowed to run for, or what percentage of the purse another is entitled to. The Stewards will have to examine such items as paid (or unpaid) bills, written or alleged agreements among partners, win-loss histories, Jockey Club Registrations – anything and everything that angry owners may bring to the table to make their cases. (The Stewards devoutly wish that co-owners and partners would put every detail of their arrangements into legal writing).
Complaints taken to the Stewards fall into two categories: informal, in which anyone from a groom on up can walk in and complain of an unpaid bill, an “unfair” parking ticket, a dog running loose, or any conceivable infraction by another licensee (these are usually resolved with a phone call) – or formal complaints, which are submitted to the CHRB and referred to the Stewards for resolution. Formal complaints are usually made over financial issues, and involve the filing of official paperwork, which can, in turn, lead to a hearing. Furthermore, if they remain unresolved, they can land the “involved” horse on the Stewards List.
These involve owners or trainer who are disputing with the Racing Secretary their horse’s eligibility for a race (usually on questions of weights and “allowances”).
These are most often levied against Jockeys – for using illegal whips, for cruel or punishing behavior to a mount, for failure to maintain a straight course, for crossing over without sufficient clearance, for “bumping,” for being a “no-show” rider, for dialing to make required weight, or even for arriving late to the Jockeys’ Room. But the really serious penalties, for an owner, are the ones that involve trainers and non-permitted medication.
Your horse (i.e., your investment) can be suspended from racing by being placed on the Stewards List for a number of reasons. One, as mentioned above, is an unresolved conflict among owners, a dispute over ownership, or even a financial dispute between owner(s) and trainer. Other grounds for a horse being placed on the Stewards List are: Lapse of a license (of anyone in your stable); the lack of a recent, timed work for a horse entered in any race; erratic or apparently uncontrollable behavior by your horse on the track, or an unduly poor performance (i.e., 30 lengths behind the pack) by your horse in a race.Placement on the Stewards List for “poor performance” can (and must) be rectified by a demonstrated work by the horse in “decent” time.
NOTE: Unlike requirements for Vet’s List removal (see below), the work required for Stewards List removal is not clearly defined. Although the work should be 5/8ths of a mile in a time of 1:03 or better, there is NO specific, qualifying time for a work mentioned in the CHRB rules. Apparently, any horse that officially gets onto the Clocker’s work sheet – that is, works at all and doesn’t give a remarkably poor performance – can be removed from the Stewards List.
The lack of a recent, timed, “qualifying” work (obviously, this is also applicable to horses who have never raced), will prevent your horse from being eligible to enter in a race. This can be rectified by scheduling a work (timed by the Official Clocker) which shall then be submitted to the Stewards. If a horse has not worked in over 30 days (up to 60 days), one work will be required; if the horse has not been worked, per the Clocker’s work-sheet, in over 60 (up to 90 days) days, two timed works will be required. If the horse has not raced in 90 days or more, three timed workouts, recorded by the Clocker and reported to the Stewards, will be required before the horse can qualify for entry in a race.
Once a horse has been registered with the Racing Secretary for an active race meet, and/or is residing on the grounds of an active track, that horse’s ownership cannot be transferred (except in the case of a claim) without notifying the Board of Stewards. Before the transfer can be approved by the Stewards, a formal notarized bill of sale (See Sample Forms & Charts, Figure 10), signed by both the registered buyer and registered seller, must also be presented. (For details of the governing Business and Professions Code section regarding this issue, please see chapter on “Acquiring a Thoroughbred”).
The Official Starter (who checks blinkers at the gate, witnesses the loading of horses and presses the button to start the race) may place on his List any horse which acted up in the gate or refused to load. Removal form the Starter’s List can be accomplished when the horse’s trainer is ready to demonstrate that the horse has been schooled to load and wait in the gate properly. Until that demonstration satisfies the Official Starter, however, the horse cannot be raced at any California track.
An Inquiry can be called for by the Stewards themselves, by their Patrol Judges, by an owner or trainer of a horse in the running, or by a jockey.
As was described earlier in the handbook (see chapter entitled “Acquiring a Thoroughbred”, section on Claiming), any horse who has failed to finish, or is observed by either the State or the Racing Veterinarian to be sore or bleeding from the nose post-race will be placed on the Vets List and barred from entry in a race for anywhere from a few days to six months. If the horse was placed on the Vets List prior to the race for observed “Sickness Requiring a Veterinary Scratch,” the horse will be ineligible for entry in another race for five full days. If the horse is placed on the Vets List for “Injury Requiring a Veterinary Scratch” from a race, or injury observed post-race, the waiting time is a minimum of three full days, after which the State Vet must examine and “sign off” on the horse’s recovery.
If the horse is placed on the Vets List, due to observed “Unsoundness Requiring a Veterinary Scratch,” or “Unsoundness Post-Race,” the wait is five full days, and in addition your horse cannot be removed from the Vets List until it has been worked – under observation of the Sate Vet or Racing Vet, by appointment only – at least 5/8ths of a mile in good time. Immediately after the work, the horse must also be blood-tested for drugs (both legal drugs at illegal thresholds and illegal drugs).
Certainly most troublesome of all, for the owner, is the issue of “bleeding” and the Vets List. Bleeding from the nose and larynx, as we have discussed elsewhere in this handbook, is not uncommon in thoroughbred racehorses under the stress of hard workouts or races. Bleeding may develop – and disappear – at any point in a horse’s racing career. (Up to 70% or 80% of racehorses will exhibit “bleeding” during their careers). Nevertheless, this is a legally defined and monitored affliction, for purposes of racing in the State of California, and must be attended to with prescribed measures. The first time your horse is observed (by the Sate Vet, the Racing vet, the Stewards or their spotters) bleeding form one or both nostrils after a race, the horse will be placed on the Bleeders List. If the horse is then put on prophylactic medication for bleeding (Lasix and/or Premarin), the Official Vet must be notified. If the horse then runs a race and is observed bleeding from one or both nostrils post-race, it will be put on the Vets List for 14 days.
After the prescribed wait, the animal’s soundness must be proved in a workout witnessed by either the State or Racing Veterinarian – appointment required – in which it must work 5/8ths of a mile in “good time” (1:03 or better), and without signs of bleeding or coughing. If, after the work, the horse shows signs of possible bleeding (blood at the nose or coughing/wheezing), the State Vet will follow the horse back to its barn. Your trainer will page your vet to do an endoscopic examination of the nose and throat; the State Vet will personally look through the endoscope, and only then will the horse be removed from the Vet’s List. If there was indeed blood as a result of the workout – OR if the horse is observed bleeding from one or both nostrils in a second race – it shall be placed on the Veterinarian’s List for 30 days. If the horse bleeds post-race (or post-work) a third time, it will be prohibited from racing for six months (180 days). Removal form the Vets List in these cases will have to be demonstrated exactly as described above: by appointment, with a work-in-good-time, and with no signs of bleeding or coughing.
If the blood test drawn by the State Vet after the race comes back from the state-appointed lab showing that the animal was contaminated by illegal drugs – or by an excess of “legal” drugs – it will be reported to the CHRB, be put on the Steward’s List and a Stewards’ Inquiry will ensue. Even if the Stewards find “against” the horse’s condition on the race day in question, the horse may still be raced during and after the inquiry period (for example, if it has been claimed, the new owner is not affected) but the former trainer will be penalized, and, if the horse finished in the money, the former owner will lose… every bit of his or her purse winnings.
NOTE: The removal of a horse from any “list” can only be authorized by the entity (i.e., Vet, Steward, or Starter) on whose list the horse was placed.
California racetracks, by law, test all claimed horse (blood only), and take both blood and urine tests from 1.) The winners, 2.) The second and third place finishers in a stakes race over $40,000 and, 3.) From 9 other horses during the day, selected at random. The Stewards have a handler stationed near the Finish Line and radio him as to which random horse should be brought to the receiving barn for post-race testing. (Any odds-on favorite who finished poorly is likely to be selected as one of the “random” horses). The tests are taken by the State Vet immediately after the race in the Receiving Barn (no stops along the way), and are sealed and signed in the presence of the trainer or the trainer’s representative.
Perhaps nothing is more vexatious to owners and trainers than the slow work-in-progress that is the “legal medication threshold” concept. Meetings of the Medication Committee of the CHRB regularly focus on the use of “non-therapeutic” drugs that could affect the outcome of a race, and the use of therapeutic drugs being administered for non-therapeutic uses (i.e., to make a horse run faster). An abbreviated version of the CHRB’s Current Medication Rules is printed in the Condition Book of every race meeting in every state, but the rules are revised often enough that trainers and owners should check them regularly and assiduously using the actual CHRB Rules and Regulations Code, copies of which are available at the CHRB Office.
An important note: Under the “Universal Rules of Racing”, trainers are responsible for the condition of horses in their care, and are presumed to know and understand all the rule of racing. It is, therefore, standard practice that the trainer is responsible for all prohibited substances found in a horse’s system. The trainer may be penalized by fine and/or suspension (but it is the owner who will lose any purse involved). Note: a trainer may request a pre-race drug test to determine if any therapeutic medications remain in a horse scheduled to a race (a common problem, for example, is the presence of procaine as by-product of Penicillin treatment).