In this issue, Australia's most respected horse racing administrative official, Sydney's Chairman of Stewards, John Schreck, looks at the unusual protest system in Australia, plus some of the more common enforcements of the Australian Jockey Club list of rules. He tells them to Sun Herald racing expert, Ric Chapman.

During his tenure at the helm of racing enforcement in N.S.W., John Schreck has revolutionised and revamped horse racing. He has empowered his panel of city stewards with a zeal to report ALL infractions of the rules. He does not allow any of them the latitude of mistake. Even if a steward may deem an incident minor, it is reported and Schreek has the offending hoops in for questioning.

His method, once seated on his throne of power inside the hallowed confines of the Steward's Room, is meticulous. He allows the rider every opportunity to speak his mind and give his version. His manner is meek, almost apologetic, yet in its very delivery is loaded with precision and power.

In short, the man they call the Sheriff, and his posse, are respected.

He loves horse racing and yet, oddly enough, readily admits he hates his job:

"We as human beings crave appreciation. I'm no different. We love to be told we are doing a good job. This job, however, doesn't lend itself to that. I hate penalising jockeys and trainers," he states.

But behind all the emotion, all the speculations, kudos and innuendoes, John Schreck has led his panel down the track of righteousness. They have cleaned up the racing scene in Sydney and made it the cornerstone for all racing the world over to build upon.

Simply put, Schreck has ruled meticulously and without fault. He has made racing a joy to attend and riders, trainers, and more importantly, punters appreciate his involvement.

Now he speaks about the two issues he hates the most, protests and suspensions.

"I'm very thankful we have the protest system we have in this country. We don't, and I pray we never do, follow the English system which can see a horse win a race and lose it on protest because an also-ran was bumped somewhere along the way.

"A major English race at Ascot the other year was a classic example. The winner interfered with a horse on the home turn that eventually placed 15th. It was gone at the time of the incident, but' subsequent to an inquiry the race was taken from the winner. That in my mind is totally ludicrous," he said.

In response to that sort of preposterous happening, the AJC protest rules are different and, as Schreck points out, very much common sense.

"I guess some people don't realise what is involved in a protest and just who is allowed to lodge a complaint," said Schreck.

"The rule AR 161 for instance states any objection may be made by the rider, trainer, nominator or his authorised agent and will be accompanied by a fee of $10. This must take place before the declaration of weights and can come in many forms including, for (a) interference, jostling, crossing too soon, or any improper act on the part of a rider; (b) not having run a proper course; (c) the race run over the wrong course, and (d) of any other matter occurring in the race.

"What some people fail to realise also, and we had reason to enforce it last month, is that the starter or any steward under rule 164 can lodge a protest."

That day at Rosehill the crowds almost demanded it. The jack Denham-trained favourite, Bambola, appeared to be knocked down at the leger by the other Denham-trained galloper, Rhythm Kingdom, who went on to win the race. Now Mighty Rimu finished second, Bambola third, Many believed the rider of Bambola should have protested. If he had and the objection was upheld it would have meant Mighty Rimu being declared the winner, with the Denham horses relegated to second and third. Subsequently no one from the Denham camp protested ... but the stewards did.

There was little doubt the course Bambola had to take cost her the race. But, as Schreck points out, the protest rules in Australia don't allow for promotion. Only demotion.

So taking a line through that, if Bambola had been awarded the protest, she would not have been given first place. Instead, Rhythm Kingdom would have been placed, or demoted to third behind the horse interfered with, meaning Mighty Rimu would take first and Bambola, at best, could only move to second.

These rules only apply to placed horses, and placings go down to 5th. So a repeat of the English fiasco could not take place in Australia.

"I'm glad the stewards haven't the right to promote. Punters would never accept it.

"What we have to decide in the protest arena is if the horse being interfered with was beaten by more ground than it lost in the scrimmage," he said.

By the way, stewards were satisfied after viewing the head-on shot that no untoward interference was attributed by Rhythm Kingdom and the placings that day stood.

That particular day no rider involved was suspended either, but a spate of suspensions have occurred recently in Sydney, including holidays to champion riders Mick Dittman, Shane Dye and Darren Beadman.

This is the main part of his job Schreck hates. "Personally, I hate taking away a rider's livelihood, particularly the battling ones. Sure the top five or six jockeys are well paid but they go out there race in race out and put their lives on the line. They deserve good money. But the battler who also puts his life on the line and who gets into trouble with us, well, that is never an easy thing for me. The stewards do try to sympathise with the battlers a little more so, but if they break the rules they will be punished. And it has to be that way."

Under rule 137a stewards may punish a rider if, in their opinion, he has used his whip or spurs in excess, or in an improper manner.

Under rule 137 any rider may be punished if, in the opinion of the stewards, (a) he/she is guilty of careless, improper, incompetent or foul riding; and (b) he/she fails to ride his/her horse out to the end of the race.

In the cases of Dittman, Dye and Beadman, they were all suspended under rule 137 section (a) for careless riding, charges they all denied and Dittman and Beadman appealed.

“With the careless riding charge it is pretty much as the dictionary quotes," said Schreck. referring to the word ‘careless'.

"Transferring it from the dictionary to the track-if a rider gets in another one's way or isn't two lengths clear when crossing, or jostles, or bumps-then we call this 'careless'. In a perfect world we like for no horses to touch. But, unfortunately, racing in this country is highly dangerous because the riders are so good and race so tight. Too tight in fact. And I believe the design of the tracks here in Australia has a lot to do with that.

"But it is us (stewards) who are subject to lots of criticism about suspensions, especially to the top riders."

Criticism and speculation surrounded the suspension of Beadman, for example, who was found guilty of careless riding when he brought his mount, Roll Dice, down the outside and was caught up with Twiggy Kima, ridden by Ken Russell.

They touched and raced together very tightly and Beadman was the one who had the finger pointed at him by the stewards. He appealed and the sentence was commuted from five weeks to just two at the AJC Committee hearing which in itself caused an outcry.

"I wouldn't like to discuss that any further," said Schreck. 'It is now water under the bridge and I'm sure you can understand that. It just wouldn't be fair to talk about him or what I think of the AJC Committee for reducing the sentence except to say we have a working relationship with them."

It was the AJC Committee that overruled the stewards that day, finding insufficient grounds to hold Beadman responsible for a five-meeting holiday.

They are the saviours of the jockeys who firmly believe they have been dealt an unfair deck by the stewards panel.

Not so Dittman, who was outed at the Warwick Stakes day meeting for his competitive ride on Bold Promise in the Silver Shadow Stakes. He was given five meetings and the AJC Committee were satisfied with it.

"It is not a perfect situation, but you must understand we are living on the knife's edge and the racing is simply too tight here. We have to look after the punters, the riders, and the owners, all of whom want their horses travelling in third spot just off the pace and on the fence. When you have 18 in a race all vying for that spot you can imagine there will be plenty of bother early and late in the race," said Schreck.

Stewards have the right to penalise everyone on course. The media hype is directed toward the result of riders' confrontations with stewards, but any person found guilty of carelessness or neglect is liable.

Hence the term. "warned off'.

"These are people," explained Schreck, "who have dabbled in improper practices, are corrupt or fraudulent. I guess the most famous case is the Fine Cotton affair which hit racing seven years ago.

"All the people who are warned off are told never to attend a race meeting and if we see them, the racecourse detectives escort them from the track," he said.

"It's a pity there's no civil action taken after these people are escorted off the course."

Click here to read Part 1.

Special report by Ric Chapman