ROAP: A Quest for Uniformity/font>
Cathy O'Meara
Cathy O'Meara, Coordinator, Racing Officials Accreditation Program

Stuart S. Janney III:

Thank you, Jim.

Cathy O'Meara has worn a number of different hats since joining The Jockey Club staff 11 years ago and three daughters ago. She is quite familiar with athletic competition as she ran track at Virginia Tech where she earned a degree in animal and poultry science. She's played an important role in the planning and execution of our Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit. Today she's here to update us on the Racing Officials Accreditation Program and the quest for uniformity in the steward stands of racetracks here and abroad.

Cathy, thank you.

Cathy O'Meara:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to share with you today on the Racing Officials Accreditation Program, or ROAP.

The thrill of horses passing the wire can only be eclipsed by realizing that your horse crossed first. The excitement and pride, and then you notice there is a blinking inquiry sign. Now cue that heavy pit in your stomach as you wait for what seems like an eternity for the stewards to finally make their decision.

What are they reviewing and how is that going to impact you? Then the decision is posted: Disqualification. Now you're deflated, possibly even angered, confused. You think: Just the other day I was watching the races, same incident happened, that horse didn't get taken down. How is that even possible? Well, I'll get to that in a moment.

But, first, what exactly is the role of the steward and how does ROAP play a role in uniformity?

The position of steward encompasses a multitude of roles at the racetrack to ensure the integrity of the sport and all of its participants. Not only must they officiate the running of the race to ensure that all rules and regulations are followed for the benefit of all participants from the licensee to the betting public.

ROAP was officially incorporated back in 2006 after unifying several stewards training programs across the country under one unified organization. Training historically was taught through The Jockey Club course here in New York, also the universities of Arizona and Louisville, the American Quarter Horse Association, National Steeplechase Association, and also the United States Trotting Association. In 1991, those groups all began the collaboration process which is now known as ROAP.

Today, ROAP is the only accrediting body for racing officials and stewards for all three disciplines of racing -- flat, harness, and steeplechase. Accreditation is a three-part process of education, examination, and experience. More than 1,400 individuals have participated in ROAP-accredited programs with approximately 300 ROAP-accredited officials currently in North America.

ROAP's board is comprised of 17 cross-industry organizations including The Jockey Club, which provides primary financial and administrative support, and nine at-large board members. While ROAP's mission is to educate and accredit officials, the organization strives to create uniformity through the education process by required continuing education programming which teaches our annual Points of Emphasis. These points focus on areas identified by current working stewards and industry stakeholders.

Like many sports, the Points of Emphasis are taught during the training to promote the uniform enforcement of rules. While it is important to note there can be differences in the individual state rules that may cause a different final outcome from the stewards, the methods and approach to the adjudication process are the same across the country.

Areas covered by the ROAP Points of Emphasis have included topics related to interference, crop usage, and transparency amongst others. We also engage our officials through the regional meetings on current rule promulgations, such as the National Uniform Medication Program and video reviews of races to encourage uniformity and, when needed, propose new rules to assist with that goal.

So let's go back to that disqualification from earlier. One of the most public roles of the steward is adjudicating the running of the race and, in particular, reviewing potential infractions of interference. Through the years, uniformity has become crucial due to simulcasting both domestically and internationally and the expectation that the rules are the same regarding interference. While the procedure and mechanics of reviewing the race are the same regardless of location, there are differing philosophies of how to adjudicate interference violations.

Aptly, these two philosophies are referred to as Category 1 and Category 2. North and South America, France, Germany, all subscribe to the Category 2 philosophy, which basically states the stewards may disqualify if, in their professional opinion, the foul altered the finish of the race, regardless of whether that foul was accidental, willful, or the result of careless riding. Some also describe it as costing a horse the opportunity for a better placing.

The stewards must determine, first, was the foul actually committed and, second, did that foul alter the finish of the race. In very few jurisdictions is the old "foul is a foul" philosophy adhered to where a horse must be disqualified when a foul is committed.

The steward should always be given discretion to use their professional judgment as the circumstances of any race are never the same.

Our international jurisdictions subscribe to the Category 1 interference philosophy, with Japan being the most recent to convert back in 2013 from a 2 to a 1, to become more unified with the Asian Federation countries.

Category 1 countries will only demote or change the placings if the horse that caused the interference improved his position because of that interference. The overall placings of the horse that was interfered with is not necessarily taken into account, but rather how they finished relative to each other.

Also, it's important to note the difference in terminology internationally with regard to placings. The term "disqualification" is used here in North America, whereas the term "demotion" is used elsewhere. While it may just seem like semantics, internationally the term "disqualify" refers to a much more serious violation, where the horse is essentially removed from the race, stripped of all placing and purse, due to some egregious actions during the race.

Here's an example of how stewards can apply the same mechanics of adjudicating an enquiry but have different results due to the differing philosophies of interference.

We're going to watch here. The horse on the outside with the white blaze is moving very rapidly up the path here and going over quite significantly across the track and is going to interfere with the No. 1 on the rail. It's important to note the No. 12's actions here. As the 1 is interfered with, the 12 is actually going to come up and beat the No. 1 horse by approximately a half a length. You'll see it a little more clearly here on the head-on. The horse is going to cross multiple paths, will interfere, again, with the horse, the No. 1 on the rail, and the 12 is going to come up, and you'll see that in slow motion, and you'll see the actual distance there between the two horses.

Under Category 2, the winner would be disqualified or demoted for the interference caused to the third place horse which essentially cost that horse the opportunity for second place. In Category 1 countries, the winner would not have been demoted as he did not improve his placing due to that interference. Or, otherwise stated, the best horse won the race. However, while the results would remain unaltered in Category 1 countries, the jockey could face serious sanctions to discourage careless riding in the future.

While these philosophies on interference may result in two different final outcomes, remember the stewards still apply the same process to reach decisions and they strive for consistency.

ROAP continues to work closely with our domestic and international colleagues to develop best practices to ensure the integrity and the health and safety of our athletes. ROAP strongly encourages all jurisdictions to employ ROAP-accredited stewards and officials, and we welcome participation in our annual accreditation schools and continuing education seminars to increase the knowledge and understanding of the duties and responsibilities of racing officials.

Thank you very much.

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