Application of Interference Rule and International Stewarding Standards
Kim Kelly
Kim Kelly, Chief Stipendiary Steward, The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Stuart S. Janney III: Let's get back to work, if we could. Let me begin. The role and responsibility of a steward in the sport of horse racing is often misunderstood. That's especially true when a high profile incident takes place. As we all know, the 2019 Kentucky Derby, with the first disqualifications for interference in the 100-plus year history of the race, raised more than a few questions about what constitutes interference.

Kim Kelly is universally respected for his knowledge and experience as a steward. And today he's going to shed some insights on interference and efforts towards international harmonization in the steward stand. I can tell you from personal experience that the professionalism, the technology, and the efficiency I saw on a trip to Hong Kong is unrivaled. In that vein, I'm pleased to announce that the Racing Officials Accreditation Program has just created two programs designed to educate stewards in North America on international officiating standards.

The first program is designed to give individuals an immersive experience in major international racing jurisdictions to help cultivate their interest in a career as a race steward.

The other program is reserved for existing racing stewards to spend time in the steward stand in major international jurisdictions in order to achieve the prestigious status of master steward.

Kim will touch on these programs in his remarks and ROAP will issue a press release with more details later today. Kim, thanks again for making a rather long trip to be with us. Look forward to your remarks.

Kim Kelly: Thank you, Chairman. Good morning, everybody. It is indeed an honor and a great privilege to be here today at such an august industry gathering. I'm here today to provide you with an insight into the stewarding practices in Hong Kong and how harmonizing the interference rule will lead to more consistent and better horse racing worldwide.

Three critical aspects related to any decision of the racing stewards are the hearing process, which involves how inquiries are conducted in general, the consistency of the application of the rules, and how decisions are communicated to the industry and the public.

At the outset I would like to give you an outline of how my panel operates in Hong Kong, which I humbly and very respectfully believe to be amongst the benchmark for how an effective and efficient stewards panel should work on race day.

Firstly, the critical aspect of the monitoring and inquiry process is immediacy. Evidence is taken as close to the running of the race as possible. We deal with 98 percent of matters during the race day itself. Nothing is held over unless further investigation is required.

So matters such as riding which results in interference; performance issues, such as whether a horse has performed disappointingly, or, conversely, if it has overachieved in comparison to its previous form; riding tactics which vary from an established pattern of racing; and the tactics adopted during a race, are all generally dealt with during the race day itself. This is possible due to having access to videos of previous races, real-time betting information from both legal and illegal betting markets and platforms, and by doing extensive form analysis, which includes speed maps and likely positions in running.

The only occasion matters are adjourned beyond the race day generally involve previous races requiring to be more comprehensively reviewed or perhaps unusual betting trends or patterns needing to be more closely scrutinized.

Matters such as whether a jockey generally uses a crop in a particular hand, whether a horse has previously been ridden in a forward or rearward position, what effect the barrier draw had, and whether the tempo of the race was a significant factor are all questions which need to be considered by the racing stewards themselves in the first instance before deciding whether to interview the jockey and/or the trainer to establish whether the rules have been offended. Racing stewards must be aware of these matters to effectively regulate the sport.

My stewards are positioned around the track for each and every race, generally in at least six strategic positions to ensure that the race is adequately observed and monitored. Immediately after the field passes the finishing line, a quick review of the race, in particular the home straight and the start, is undertaken to identify any incidents which may result in inquiry before the result is made official.

The full stewards panel then comes together in the inquiry room to either adjudicate on the inquiry or discuss matters, such as the tactics adopted by each runner and any instances of riding which may be in breach of the rules.

When interference occurs in a race which requires an inquiry to be conducted, the relevant jockeys are formally interviewed in the Inquiry Room and never via telephone. It is important to note that the Inquiry Room's located within close proximity of the Jockeys Room. If the hearing is not completed prior to the subsequent race, then the matter is held over until after that race. The racing stewards do not complete the day until all inquiries are either completed or adjourned, where necessary.

During this process neither the racing stewards or those appearing before us are entitled to be legally represented. An obvious benefit to the panel meeting immediately after each race and discussing relevant issues is consistency in the decision-making process. This is essential not only to the stewards panel, but also to the persons being regulated, the governing racing body and importantly to owners, bettors, and the public in general.

Specifically referring to the International Harmonization of Interference Rules, in October 2017, the International Federation of Horse Racing authorities included a model rule into the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing, and Wagering to provide best practice guidance to racing authorities on the most appropriate interference philosophy. The model rule is what is commonly referred to as the category 1 interference philosophy. Put simply, for a protest inquiry to be successful, the racing stewards must be satisfied that if horse A caused interference to horse B, horse B would have beaten horse A if the interference did not occur. If horse B finishes third and the interferer wins the race, the connections of horse B cannot say that the horse should have finished in second placing.

Following the IFHA decision to support category 1 in the racing world's preeminent best practice document, France and Germany immediately announced that had they would change to category 1, the decision mirroring that of the Japan Racing Association in 2013 to adopt category 1 as its interference rule. Major racing jurisdictions which currently operate under category 1 include those appearing on the screen.

Each individual state, territory, and province within these jurisdictions works under the framework of the one interference rule. There is not a fragmented approach to how interference is adjudicated, which is noteworthy, as a single unified approach results in the consistent application of the rule.

Japan, France, and Germany had previously been operating under what is referred to as the category 2 interference philosophy, which in general terms provides that if a horse causes interference, and the sufferer of that interference could have finished in a better position, then the interferer is relegated behind the sufferer. Crucially, this is irrespective of whether the sufferer would have beaten the interferer.

By comparison to the many countries operating under Category 1, the racing jurisdictions which currently operate under Category 2 are on the screen. To say that the balance towards Category 1 is stark, is to understate the situation.

So why is it that the overwhelming majority of racing jurisdictions operate under category 1 rather than category 2? Firstly, category 1 consistently rewards the most deserving horse. And secondly, by solely upon their support of those racing jurisdictions, owners and bettors accept category 1 as the fairest way to decide upon the placings of a race in which interference occurs.

Owners are critical to the health of any racing jurisdiction. But equally and arguably more so, bettors are the life blood of the industry, as they support racing through betting turnover. Owners and bettors must be protected so that they will continue to support racing rather than abandoning the sport.

Will current and future participants remain and be attracted to racing if they lose their money one day and then lose their money again the following day in another jurisdiction due to a conflicting rule? It must be maddening to racing supporters, so how would a new customer, be they owners or bettors, handle such circumstances?

Critical rules of racing must be harmonized across international borders. Can anyone imagine the height of the net in the U.S. Open tennis being entirely different to the height applicable at Wimbledon? Would followers of tennis, which attracts significant wagering around the world, accept such a situation? Can racing allow the current situation to continue?

Countries experiencing watershed moments which provided the impetus for changing to category 1 include Great Britain, via the Royal Gate demotion in the 1988 Ascot Gold Cup and the Japan Racing Association's demotion of Buena Vista in the 2010 Japan Cup. Both Royal Gate and Buena Vista were demoted behind lesser horses with both decisions attracting widespread international condemnation. However, the unintended benefit to these outcomes was the positive move of both jurisdictions to change to category 1.

So will the 2019 Kentucky Derby ultimately prove to be North America's watershed moment? The circumstances of this year's Derby are well known to those in this room. But there are a couple of points which need to be highlighted regarding an interpretation of the result through the category 1 prism. The main recipients of the interference caused by Maximum Security finished 8th, 14th, and 17th, with their respective margins being 4 1/4 lengths, 14 3/4 lengths and 17 3/4 lengths. No cogent argument can be made that any of those horses would have beaten Maximum Security on the day, regardless of the interference, including the second place getter.

Under either category 1 or category 2, the jockey of Maximum Security is very likely to be penalized for his actions or his inactions. But under category 2, the jockey is not the only person who is penalized, as the owners lose prize money, the trainer loses his winning his or her winning percentage and reputational benefits, the breeders who have bred the winner of one of the world's most iconic races are negatively affected, and significantly, every single bettor who supported the horse is impacted.

And whilst these parties are also affected under category 1, in those circumstances it can be demonstrated that the most deserving horse did not win the race or obtain their best relevant position. Perhaps one demotion in the 150-year history of one of the world's most iconic races isn't cause to throw the baby out with the bath water. But it is not just about one demotion in one race. It is demotions of the most deserving horses behind inferior horses in races across the scale of importance.

Will bettors and owners continue to support a sport which doesn't always acknowledge the most deserving participant? I firmly believe that racing should always be a contest which, wherever possible, rewards the most deserving horse on the day, and should not be about penalizing every party associated with a horse or jockey which causes interference. It is my very respectful opinion that category 2 yields inconsistent and undesirable outcomes. And while category 1 may not be perfect, it is significantly less imperfect than category 2.

An obvious concern, which has been raised by many, is safety, which I understand is under a good deal of scrutiny here in America. I have read concerns that a move from category 2 to category 1 will result in win-at-all-cost riding by jockeys. Let me address those concerns.

Firstly, category 2 did not prevent the Kentucky Derby incident or any other incident in which horses were demoted due to interference.

Secondly, if category 1 did lead to incident-marred racing, it stands to reason that races conducted by the overwhelming majority of those racing jurisdictions I have instanced would be blighted by interference. Those countries are home to many of the world's iconic races and in many cases lead the world in betting turnover. It is my experience that if these races, regardless of status, were repeatedly subject to interference where the safety of riders and the welfare of horses was compromised, they would not continue to receive support from owners, jockeys, and bettors.

Further, the experience of the Japan Racing Association has shown this train of thought to be flawed. 213 inquiries down to eight, 33 demotions down to three, 38 careless riding charges as compared to 34. The Japanese figures support that the change to category 1 does not bring with it a win-at-all-cost riding mentality.

However, jurisdictions may implement necessary changes to the penalty regime applicable to careless, reckless, and dangerous riding to address any concerns regarding the safety of the sport.

Finally, the third limb of the aforementioned model rule provides for such riding.

If North America changes to the Category 1 philosophy at some time in the future, and it is obviously my fervent hope that it will, then every major racing jurisdiction in the world will operate under one harmonized interference rule. In this age of what I refer to as borderless racing and betting, often into co-mingled betting pools, we simply cannot allow differing interpretations of a critical rule of racing to disenfranchise supporters.

In respect to international harmonization, I applaud The Jockey Club and the Racing Officials Accreditation Program on the decision to expand the current ROAP apprenticeship program and to introduce a new immersive program with international jurisdictions to expose North American stewards to the processes applied on a worldwide basis. This is a wonderful initiative which can only benefit racing stewards in America and around the world.

Regardless of the category under which a protest decision is adjudicated, the industry and the public being properly informed of the reasons for the decision is as important as arriving at the correct decision in the first place. The connections and the bettors of the relevant horses are entitled to know why a horse either was or was not demoted. They are the people who have financial skin in the game. It is my experience that when provided with a detailed and comprehensive explanation as to how and why a certain decision was made, they will be more inclined to accept the decision, irrespective of whether they agree with it.

It is incumbent upon racing regulators, and in particular racing stewards, to utilize all available means to adequately inform the industry and the public of the reasons for decisions in respective rulings which impact upon their investment in the sport. The publishing of detailed and comprehensive stewards reports, the utilization of industry-related television, press briefings, news and radio outlets, together with the varied social media platforms are just some of the ways in which racing stewards can deliver the message. Transparency is king. An open and transparent stewarding department encourages confidence in how the sport is being regulated, while providing comfort that the basic premise of fair play is being upheld.

Racing stewards must never be afraid of explaining their decisions to the public. My experience is that so long as decisions are properly considered with all the relevant factors and competing arguments being taken into account, then those decisions will always be able to be supported. My advice to racing stewards is that we must always remember that it is a principal responsibility to protect the industry protect the industry stakeholders, protect their interests, including owners, jockeys, trainers and the betting public. We must, we have an obligation to treat them with the respect they deserve by providing them with levels of service which customers of any service provider have an entitlement to expect.

Transparency is King. Confidence in the regulation of racing is paramount. Confidence lost, everything lost.

Thank you very much for your time and patience. And thank you to The Jockey Club for the opportunity.


Stuart S. Janney III: Kim, as I said before and will say again, what you're doing in Hong Kong is very impressive. And your talk today was very thought-provoking, so thank you for being here.


Back Agenda Next