Kelly stands firm on controversial rule

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 July, 2011, 12:00am


In the words of chief steward Kim Kelly, it was 'a busy season for us in many respects', but pressure was building as to whether that meant racing control was better or worse.

Not that Kelly, a forthright character unlikely to be swayed by any argument but his own, would take criticisms to heart, but sections of the media continued their rant against his stewarding, believing jockeys and trainers were running amok and the panel was toothless.

After a record year for careless riding charges in Kelly's first term - 90 penalties handed out and 204 jockey days lost - that side of things settled down, back to normal levels with 74 careless riding cases and 169 days out.

It was in other areas where things got touchy and five applications of the rule requiring jockeys to take 'all reasonable and permissible measures to win or obtain the best possible place in the field' was one. In the 10 seasons prior, 15 rides fell foul of the rule. It's tough on those five penalised - all were relicensed, so their integrity was not under question - but it continues to be a tricky area open to much personal interpretation.

The other event was the HK$300,000 fine issued to Zac Purton in June after an inquiry found he had not taken the appropriate action of reporting two separate approaches from a punter, previously jailed for a similar offence, who wished to place bets on his behalf in return for tips. The matter was complicated as Purton had known the punter's brother in Sydney as a racing manager for Hong Kong owners, and he had loaned him money over their joint involvement in a business venture in Australia.

Stewards reported Purton's full co-operation - he had even given evidence against the punter's brother at an internal Jockey Club membership hearing - and that Kelly's panel could find no evidence Purton had done anything but refuse the advances, and they accepted his evidence regarding the business loan.

It was a case that polarised opinions. Any show of hands would have seen the stewards' view and, subsequently that of the appeals panel, defeated in a landslide.

One area of progress was the introduction of a full-time betting steward, a step which has worked well in Australia. Kelly called it one of the best advances in his time here, having someone working on racing form and also on the way that patterns of betting, both by individuals and punters collectively, connected with what happened on the track.