Common Goal case shows some suffer and some don't

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2012, 12:00am


Other jockeys must have been wondering about the outcome of the Common Goal inquiry last week, a case that bears out this column's unequivocal discomfort with many of the 'reasonable and permissible measures' that have led to penalties being handed out in recent seasons.

Let's say up front the stewards didn't make the case to hang Alex Lai Hoi-wing for his ride on Common Goal - nor did we expect them to be able to make the case. But then we didn't think that they made the case for putting out other riders in the past few seasons under the same rule, and out they went just the same.

The difficulty, which we have addressed previously here, is that the stewards have been trying to draw a line, beyond which mistakes and misjudgments are sufficient to bring on a penalty and nobody has to even try to make the case that so-and-so didn't try.

But that line is always blurry, and inevitably leads to inconsistencies.

Jeff Lloyd was put out because he didn't shift from a three-wide position to a two-wide position early in a race - a move that burst into a spectacular subsequent fireworks display of misfortune for his mount. Mark du Plessis was put out because he had been too positive and his mount took that as a signal to go hell for leather until he all but dropped.

Lai was not put out despite his lack of vigour on Common Goal at crucial parts of the Happy Valley race, as he believed that improving his position at one point would have compromised adherence to his instructions and that his lack of vigour at another vital point was due to the circumstances around him.

His explanations were no better or worse than those offered in other cases where jockeys were suspended for significant periods of time. In hindsight, Lai may have done things differently, as might we all. It happens.

And this is the inherent inconsistency in applying the 'reasonable and permissible measures' rule to what may merely be mistaken tactics - and even whether some tactics are a mistake is in the eye of the beholder at times anyway.

Where the stewards have been trying to get to is a place where mistakes made by accident and the mistakes made on purpose are bundled together and penalised - but Common Goal showed us that where they have ended up is the same unpalatable place they were when the 'reasonable and permissible measures' rule was regarded as a de facto non-trier law, where the wheel gets a spin and some suffer for errors and some do not.