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Stewards' inquiries to be shown by BBC at Epsom

Jockeys answer questions at a steward's inquiry
Jockeys answer questions at a steward's inquiry

By Frank Keogh

Stewards' inquiries will be broadcast live for the first time in UK racing history when the BBC screens hearings from the Epsom Derby meeting in June.

The workings of the stewards' room, which can affect the destiny of millions of punters' pounds, have been a closely guarded secret until now.

Racing's referees can amend results when something occurs in running which may affect the final placings.

Officials hope the trial will help to demystify one aspect of horse racing.

The move coincides with one of the biggest meetings in the Flat racing calendar, with valuable races including the Derby, the Oaks and the Coronation Cup.

Until now, stewards' inquiries in the UK have been conducted behind closed doors, and some jockeys are opposed to the trial as they believe it could open them to criticism from racehorse owners, trainers or the public.

Any hearings into televised races at Epsom will be shown as part of the Racing for Change initiative which is designed to broaden the sport's appeal.


Viewers could potentially see the likes of Frankie Dettori, Kieren Fallon or Johnny Murtagh having to explain their riding.

"British racing leads other major sports in how it manages its disciplinary functions," said Nic Coward, the chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

"We believe that running this trial will help demystify an important aspect of racing whilst adding to the excitement and drama of a race day."

At every UK race meeting, at least three stewards are responsible for deciding if the Rules of Racing have been breached. One of those officials will be a stipendiary steward - many of whom are themselves former jockeys.

If the outcome of a race might be affected, inquiries are held quickly to help punters waiting to be paid out and ensure subsequent races are not delayed.

Stewards at Epsom will have instant access to up to seven different TV camera angles if interference has taken place.

They have the power to change the finishing order of the race by relegating, or disqualifying, a horse if they believe it would have finished in a different position had there not been interference in running.

Televising the hearings would give racing fans a valuable insight, said Jamie Stier, the BHA's director of raceday operations and regulation.

"In Australia, the televising of this type of inquiry has proved to be enormously popular," said Stier, who believes the trial underlines confidence in how racing is currently regulated.

But the move was opposed by some riders, admitted former champion Kevin Darley, who is now chief executive of the Professional Jockeys' Association.

"The idea of a trial of televised stewards' inquiries has been debated widely by jockeys, culminating in a vote among our Flat membership," said Darley.

Epsom racecourse
Epsom is famed for Tattenham Corner and its undulating contours

"While our decision was in no way unanimous, a majority voted in favour of the trial.

"As an association, we are keen to play our part in modernising the image of racing, and I'm sure the viewing public will grow to appreciate the skills that jockeys employ in our sport.

"This trial will help to illustrate the challenges faced by riders when split-second decisions can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

"Epsom Downs' unique gradients, uphill finish and deceptive camber test a jockey's skills to the limit."

The course's managing director Rupert Trevelyan said he was pleased the track would be breaking new ground at the 232nd Derby meeting.

"It is fitting that this 'first' will be introduced for the world's greatest horse race," he said.

"Our commitment to innovation will continue when it is for the good of our sport."

BBC Two will be broadcasting five races on Friday 4 June, including the Oaks and Coronation Cup, with the programme starting at 1330 BST.

On Saturday 5 June, BBC One will be showing five races, including the Derby, the UK's most prestigious flat race. The programme starts at 1315 BST.

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see also
Workforce set to tackle the Derby
26 May 10 |  Horse Racing
Epsom Derby meeting schedule
07 May 10 |  Horse Racing

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