Mike Dillon: Owners on slippery slope when call goes out to can meeting

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Jockeys, look away now. Photo / iStock
Jockeys, look away now. Photo / iStock

Jockeys, look away now.

Here is a possible solution to the financial devastation created for owners when race meetings are called off.

Hawera was abandoned on Thursday without one horse galloping around the track.

The fear by jockeys was that a shower earlier in the morning would have made the track, officially declared a good 2 at 6.30am, slippery and unsuitable for racing.

It is understood many jockeys were prepared to at least run Race 1 to make a decision on continuing. Lisa Allpress, who walked the track, was apparently one of them.

The vast percentage of trainers with horses engaged - John Wheeler, who had eight acceptors, included - were livid over the cancellation without any attempt to test the footing.

There is a general perception that stipendiary stewards, who make the final call to continue or proceed, would be accountable for charges such as manslaughter if they went ahead if one jockey complained and then someone was killed.

Yes, that could be the case if a meeting had started and a jockey, after riding in a race, declared the track unsafe.

But without the footing being tested, that would not apply.

"In those cases, if a jockey doesn't want to ride then they should be told to go home," says Wheeler. "If others want to ride, let them until the track is proven to be unsafe.

"We will never know whether the Hawera track was safe or not. These cancellations are ridiculously expensive. It's okay for jockeys, they have their total commitment to the industry in the boot of their car and trainers have to have a large property and pay wages."

Suggestion: jockeys recently had a wage rise to $161, which includes GST. What if $5 was deducted from every ride for all jockeys and that money went to a fund to underpin owners' costs when a meeting is cancelled. Or, alternatively, the money covers an insurance policy for the same end.

Floating horses, say, from the Waikato to Taranaki, and plenty do, is expensive. It's much more expensive if the horse does not get a run.

It is, after all, jockeys who make the first call on whether a meeting goes ahead. Stipendiary stewards rubber stamp those calls, but the calls come from the jockeys.

This is not suggesting for one second jockeys should ride in dangerous situations. This column has always been dedicated on that, this writer was great friends with jockey Tony Williams and watched close up as he struggled for 30 years in a wheelchair as a tetraplegic.

Taking this to a ridiculous extreme, you could say the bottom line is without owners jockeys don't have horses to ride and are out of business.

The more owners who stay in the business, the more rides for jockeys.

- NZ Herald

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