Racing: Suspensions show just how ludicrous some rules are

By Mike Dillon

Jockey Jason Waddell copped a four-day (racedays) suspension for careless riding at Avondale on March 8. Photo / File
Jockey Jason Waddell copped a four-day (racedays) suspension for careless riding at Avondale on March 8. Photo / File

"The law is an ass." So said Mr Bumble in Charles Dickens' 1838 play Oliver Twist.

Seems we haven't learned much in 179 years.

We are not talking about common law courts - though you have to smile over the toupee case last week - we refer to thoroughbred racing's legislation.

Suspended jockey Jason Waddell should have had his appeal to ride Kawi in last Thursday's $200,000 Bonecrusher Stakes allowed.

Waddell copped a four-day (racedays) suspension for careless riding at Avondale on March 8.

The New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing website states Waddell was "suspended from the close of racing on March 12 until close of racing March 22, 4 (race)days". The four racedays that timeframe encompassed is the penalty and the March 22 date is actually incidental. March 12 to March 22 did not originally encompass the Auckland Cup-Bonecrusher Stakes day.

When that March 11 meeting was postponed until Thursday, it meant Waddell was penalised five days' racing.

Doesn't common sense tell you an exemption should be granted in such cases. "We have no provision to alter suspensions," said a Judicial Control Authority spokesperson at the Waddell appeal.

We are hogtied by regulations that don't make sense - so change the regulations.

Explain who was advantaged by Waddell, and others, not being allowed to ride on Thursday - no one.

Who was disadvantaged? The connections of the horses those jockeys were engaged for.

Ridiculous. And the fact Kawi did not perform up to expectations changes nothing.

The James McDonald case is much worse.

On Thursday McDonald failed to have his 18-month disqualification reduced on appeal.

It was refused on a 2-1 majority, which in itself is interesting.

Much has been written about this case and it needs urgent review.

If Damien Oliver a couple of years ago had not put A$10,000 on the winner of a race in Melbourne in which he rode a beaten runner, McDonald would almost certainly be back riding now.

Oliver was given eight months (a further two for using a cellphone in the jockeys' room) for an act that could not rail more strongly against the spirit of racing and bordered on illegality under common law.

There was an outcry over the paltry penalty and the rule was changed to a mandatory two years disqualification, which McDonald copped with a discretionary six months rebate for co-operating with stewards.

There should not have been a penalty. Ask the rule makers in Australia why jockeys should not be permitted to bet on horses they ride and they couldn't come up with an answer. Who could possibly be disadvantaged?

Betting on their own ride guarantees that horse will get every opportunity. Backing another horse guarantees their ride will get no chance. Necked, pulled up, held back, call it what you like, it's the most vicious crime in racing.

Okay, there is a blanket rule against betting, but that doesn't necessarily make the rule right or appropriate.

In the two-year penalty, the fact rule-makers do not distinguish between betting on your own horse and backing one to beat your horse is disgraceful. It's ludicrous.

What were they thinking? It's a black and while, night and day situation and cannot be allowed to stand go unaltered.

The world has gone crazy - we just experienced the wettest two week period for this time of year in recorded history and Auckland is short of water.

You wonder what Charles Dickens would make of a snapshot of today.

James McDonald hold your head high, the integrity of the race you won could never be questioned.

You have done nothing wrong in the eyes of the world's most important court - the court of pubic opinion - and that's meant to be the core principle of all courts.

It's not your fault some of racing's regulations are written by those who should check their pulse.

- NZ Herald

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