Mike Dillon: Every picture tells an inquiry story

Fanastic (outside) won the New Zealand Oaks at Trentham yesterday in the protest room. Photo / Race Images PNTH
Fanastic (outside) won the New Zealand Oaks at Trentham yesterday in the protest room. Photo / Race Images PNTH

Every picture tells a story.

No, not Rod Stewart's fabulous 1971 rock album, it's, in fact, applicable to thoroughbred racing judicial inquiries.

Perhaps, "A Picture Tells A Thousand Words" is more appropriate, although more than loosely they mean the same.

Yes, we are talking about the reversal of the first two placings in Saturday's $300,000 Wellfield Stud Oaks at Trentham.

The reversal was a given. As soon as you saw the head-on vision of the final 350m, you would have taken $1.05 that this was a no-brainer for Fanatic to be promoted ahead of the first-past-the-post hot favourite Sofia Rosa.

Which leads us to a point - how much evidence from connections of both horses is necessary when only one result can eventuate? The Trentham grandstand would have been pulled down if the placings hadn't changed.

Another point - many states in America, which has never been into protracted race inquiries, have recently adopted a system by which jockeys wishing to protest have to do so before dismounting. The jockeys and connections of horses involved are not permitted to give evidence and stewards announce a decision within minutes.

Yes, that is a lot easier in the States where, unlike in Australia and New Zealand, horses are not permitted to touch during running. Even the slightest brush leads to, not relegation, but total disqualification, making protests easier to read.

Is the evidence of connections really required when electronic coverage tells the story and how influential can that evidence be if one horse's connections are much more eloquent than the other. You see that regularly.

In years past, the silver tongue of the late, great Roy Higgins swayed many an inquiry, none more than when Big Philou was promoted over New Zealand's Nausori in the 1969 Caulfield Cup, according to witnesses.

In more recent times, Glen Boss and Craig Williams would be worthy Academy Award nominees for their performances in the inquiry room.

Australia would have more chance of inquiries without connections because their stewards, unlike New Zealand, are judge and jury and their chief stewards of Ray Murrihy in Sydney and Melbourne's Terry Bailey are vastly experienced and, more importantly, adjudicate at every meeting.

Here, under our Judicial Control Authority, delegates sit in judgment spasmodically through rotation. Perhaps then, in some cases, they do need the action explained to them by connections.

The Australian system is vastly superior in terms of consistency, provided you have they right people at the top and, at least in Victoria and New South Wales, that's the case. Let's never forget the disgraceful handling of the case of New Zealand's He's Remarkable in Perth.

Enough said.

- NZ Herald

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