In the wake of falls at successive Happy Valley meetings, we’ve had questions asked by readers about jockey liability when riders are injured in falls where another jockey has been blamed for the incident.
Last week’s fall, happily, did not result in a serious injury to Matthew Chadwick in the race won by Nash Rawiller on Wayfoong Vinnie, for which Rawiller was later found guilty of careless riding and banned for six meetings.
But note that the highly experienced Rawiller was found guilty at the subsequent inquiry, indicating that he did not plead guilty, and contrast that with Chad Schofield pleading guilty over the fall of Dashing King, which left Jack Wong Ho-nam with a fractured ankle and Umberto Rispoli with knee ligament damage that is likely to keep him out of the saddle for some considerable time.
Readers have asked if litigation could be pursued by one of the injured riders – who have lost their income – against a rider who has admitted to causing the fall, which surely makes it easier to make a case stick later on.
The answer is yes, but not in a way that we might have expected or the way which was once the case. As we understand it, the injured rider does not sue another rider nowadays but in fact would sue the insurance company of the jockey at fault. No payment would come out of the pocket of the guilty rider.
There have even been rumours of cases where the fallen rider was very badly injured, legal action was taken and, to simplify the outcome and speed the settlement of compensation, the one culpable did everything possible to proclaim who was to blame.
While it is never a good idea to plead guilty (in pretty much most life scenarios, but note to Hong Kong-based jockeys: due to the penalty structure in place here, there is no discount from your suspension for pleading guilty as you might find in other jurisdictions) that plea by Schofield isn’t going to come back to bite him later in a court somewhere.
Of course, it will keep biting him in another way as it is one more in a series of careless riding bans and that poor record was the reason why he finished with eight meetings from a charge that normally carries a two or three day penalty.
It’s an area where Schofield would be the first to admit he needs to clean up his act – for safety reasons as well as the brake it puts on his progress and success – but we’d have to rebuff anyone questioning his suitability for Hong Kong.
Many top class jockeys have had modest disciplinary records as young riders, a certain percentage never got much better as they got older and riders of all levels and experience still played a role in falls all their careers. It goes with the competitive territory and scratch the surface of any successful jockey and there are some proper offences there.
And the level of carelessness in this case was low – the consequential effects were serious, but the actual carelessness was not, it was common garden-variety carelessness which you almost see every race and it draws no real attention until there’s a fall. A couple of days here, a reprimand there but a fall brings an outcry.
Now, we can hear people saying “yes, but if I drive my car badly and people get hurt then it’s a greater crime and must receive a stronger punishment than if no-one is hurt.” Quite true but in those circumstances, you’ll also be charged with a more serious crime.
That option was open to the stewards last week too and they could have gone with reckless riding or dangerous riding if they felt the incident merited a stronger charge, but they stuck with careless riding which is, for want of a better description, the mildest of the charges under rule 100.
The best riders for Hong Kong are the young up and coming stars who grow into the place, who want to make a career here and not just stop by for a short post-grad course before returning to their home lands.
Those long-term jockeys are getting harder and harder to find, but Schofield is one who does want to stay, absolutely deserves his place here and you don’t hear other riders – who would be the sternest critics given they have to ride with him – muttering about how dangerous he is. We can’t say that about all of the current riders.
Nobody wants to see falls, with or without injuries, and Schofield needs to sharpen his concentration but let’s put a lid on knee jerk reactions – suggesting he isn’t a fit for Hong Kong would be the silliest thing we’d heard all week if it weren’t for the local commentator who asserted that only jockeys who can ride 113 pounds should be licensed here.
Let punters decide what information is important
“Rakegate” is a fast becoming a memory but there are some residual issues for punters over the race at Happy Valley last month when the starting gates malfunctioned due to the misplaced garden tools.
The Jockey Club is the world leader at presenting racing information for punters and we’ve already written that we were pleased to see the fact of the void race appear in the club’s form guide – an acknowledgment that horses did race. So we then found it hard to believe that preview shows for last week’s Happy Valley card were not permitted to show the no-race as a form reference for D B Pin.
It was in fact THE form reference for the horse, and the whole reason D B Pin was a hot favourite so to suggest it was irrelevant would be ridiculous.
We bring up an additional note, that Ho Ho Feel’s trial on November 8 – when he ditched his jockey after the start then completed the 1,600m – doesn’t appear in his trackwork records.
And if you think it doesn’t matter then consider this – if that was a race and you bet on Ho Ho Feel you would not have got a refund and it definitely would have appeared in the horse’s form, so it must be significant on some level.
Information is a haystack in which punters are trying to find a needle, and there’s a lot more hay than needle. On the club’s trackwork presentations, for instance, you see horses doing slow canters, even walking – utterly useless. The ‘pass through’ video is a waste of time and horse body weights are a serious red herring – but those are all opinions.
Then there are trials; an excellent tool but not better than races, even a void race – remember, nobody has to actually try in trials so finishing positions are meaningless – but we get them three times a week now and one was used as the relevant form for D B Pin.
The point about information is that someone’s dry grass is someone else’s sewing implement (see earlier metaphor) and the Jockey Club usually handles it perfectly – don’t airbrush it, just put it out there and let the customers decide for themselves what is relevant.