The international harmonisation of horse racing rules has taken a major step forward with the announcement that France would move to adoption of the Category 1 protest rule, in line with Australia, Hong Kong and most of the major racing jurisdictions.
Arising from the annual International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) conference in Paris following Arc weekend, Germany is also expected to adopt Category 1 although North America remains outside what is now being described as the “model rule” and which will be enshrined by IFHA in Article 32.
“Achieving greater uniformity in raceday rules is important to the development of an international fan base, and it has been identified as essential to the simulcasting and commingling arrangements which are increasingly significant for the revenues of the sport,” IFHA chairman Louis Romanet said.
“The inclusion in the International Agreement of this model rule on deciding protests/objections represents a significant achievement in the IFHA’s quest for major racing rules to be harmonised across all member countries.”
Category 1 is the Australian model for protests, which is also used in Hong Kong, wherein interference with another runner does not automatically result in demotion for the runner causing the interference, which is the Category 2 rule.
Under Category 1 protest rules, it must be shown that the aggressor gained an advantage by the interference caused and finished in front of the affected runner only as a result of that interference.
This rule has gradually gained acceptance around the world over the last 20 years but France was the major holdout jurisdiction in Europe until now, and the change is an important breakthrough along the difficult path to rule harmonisation being pushed by Hong Kong’s chief steward Kim Kelly.
“I am hopeful that the North American jurisdictions and OSAF, which is the overarching body for racing in South America, will also adopt the provisions of Article 32,” said Kelly.
“Japan adopted a Category 1 rule in 2013 and now Europe is doing the same, so this is a landmark decision for global harmonisation of the major rules of racing. And we have tried to emphasise what might be termed major rules.
“All rules are important, of course, but we are focusing first on rules which directly impact horseplayers – in a globalised sport, people need to understand that there is a common rule to govern protests, whether they have made a bet on a race in Hong Kong or France or Japan. These are the rules that the public sees in action and we need this consistency.”
The wording of the model rule will, however, carry a nod to Category 2 in its final clause, which allows for the disqualification of a horse for interference “in circumstances in which the staging authority’s relevant judicial body deems that the rider has ridden in a dangerous manner”.
That would have had relevance for some famous big race incidents in Australia over the years, when jockeys have caused considerable interference and gone on to win major races, putting a big margin between themselves and the horses interfered with so that it was impossible to make the protest case that the affected horse would have beaten them.
According to Romanet, Article 32 will also standardise the types of whips jockeys may carry in races as “only padded/shock absorbing whips/crops, which have not been modified in any way”.