Mike Dillon: Cones left on the track report falls short of expectations

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Only a miracle saved jockeys from being injured or killed when the first Riccarton race arrived at the 1000m to encounter marker cones across the width of the track. Photo / Getty Images
Only a miracle saved jockeys from being injured or killed when the first Riccarton race arrived at the 1000m to encounter marker cones across the width of the track. Photo / Getty Images

So, the Racing Integrity Unit and the Canterbury Jockey Club have released a combined report on the shameful "cones-left-on-the-track" race at Riccarton two weeks ago.

Only a miracle saved jockeys from being injured or killed when the first Riccarton race arrived at the 1000m to encounter marker cones across the width of the track.

In the aftermath, horses and jockeys were scattered everywhere and the race was declared void.

Leading rider Matt Cameron said he was lucky because he was at the back of the field and blindsided for most of it, but still declared it one of the scariest moments he has faced.

The combined release by the Racing Integrity Unit and Canterbury Jockey Club says:

"Cones are regularly placed on the track at the 1000m and 1400m at Riccarton Park to keep horses off the rail when, as part of their education, they jump out from practice starting gates. In this case the cones were placed in their normal position on Thursday after mowing.

"The cones are removed on raceday as part of the race meeting set-up, with this being done well before the first race.

"The club has a checklist for raceday set-up and the 'removal of cones' is on the list which has to be ticked off when completed.

"A CJC staff member was designated the task of picking up all the cones on the track. At approximately 1.30pm he recovered those situated at the 1400m but, inexplicably, did not pick up those near the 1000m. The staff member then logged all the cones as being retrieved.

"The RIU steward chairing the meeting walked the track from 12pm to 12.30pm as part of RIU inspection duties, and while it was noted that cones were on the track at both the 1400m and 1000m it was assumed that they would be removed by the club, as this has always been the practice in the past.

Who is responsible?

"The RIU and the club accept full responsibility for what occurred and have reviewed the actions of staff and the processes in place. In this case while both organisations had systems in place human error and a failure to follow through resulted in an extremely dangerous situation.

"The staff concerned (both RIU and the club's) are shattered by what occurred, they are remorseful and understand fully the gravity of what could have happened. It is being dealt with as an employment matter by the respective organisations.

"Action being taken to ensure it does not occur again."

Sorry, not good enough.

That falls short of what is expected for professionals.

For starters, that press and public release does not include a name.

If a jockey creates a dangerous situation for fellow jockeys it would be declared foul riding and the maximum penalties are 12 months' suspension or disqualification and/or a $20,000 fine.

That rule can be invoked for charges significantly less than life endangerment.

Also, that jockey's name is emblazoned across all forms of media.

Yesterday, it could not be established if there is a facility to fine members of the Racing Integrity Unit, or for that matter a club employee.

If not, then why not?

Okay, there is the opportunity to declare actions of either personnel incompetent and send them packing.

In the case of the RIU employee, you can bet a million dollars to a bottle top that won't be happening.

What about a system allowing for a $5000 fine for a first blunder then dismissal for a second?

There are those, some in high places, who favour instant dismissal for the first offence.

And of the release, what about the line "action being taken to ensure it does not happen again".

Surely every possible contingency was already in place when this debacle occurred. And if they weren't, why weren't they?

On two levels safety was completely ignored.

If this media release is limp-wristed because no one was hurt, that is a totally wrong approach.

Jockeys could have been killed.

They are racing's only participants required to put their lives on theline.

They deserve better.

- NZ Herald

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