In all my years of watching horses race I don’t think I have ever seen a more lenient sentence issued to a jockey for causing major interference in a big race than the ridiculously light one month suspension issued to Matthew McGillivray for his ride on Ef Troop in the Magic Millions 2-Year-Old Classic at the Gold Coast yesterday, or a greater abrogation by a stewards panel of their fundamental obligation to keep jockeys going about their daily business on a racetrack safe.
I’m using the stewards words when I call what happened at the 800m mark of the Magic Millions 2YO Classic interference, but it’s actually far too soft a term. What McGillivray created by breaking the rules and crossing when he was less a single length clear of the horses inside him was nothing but carnage.
Oliver v Victoria Racing Limited (Review and Regulation)(2016) VCAT 1794
If either Sunlight or Secret Lady had clipped Ef Troops heels and fallen, or if any of the horses behind them had clipped theirs, it could have been tragic for God only knows how many horses and riders might have come down and what level of damage or deaths may have occurred.
This wasn’t simply careless riding.
This was absolute reckless abandon.
The judge in Damian Oliver’s suspension for reckless riding aboard Flying Artie in the 2016 Blue Sapphire Stakes spelled out the difference between careless and reckless riding in black and white.
In Oliver’s case the judge upheld the stewards decision to out the premiership winning rider for 20 meetings, and he was forced to miss the major part of the carnival, costing him a number of plum mounts in big races like the Caulfield Cup and the Cox Plate.
What Oliver did though was only about a tenth as McGilvray’s sins yesterday afternoon at the Coast, for he only jostled and bumped with one rider – Dean Yendall – whereas McGillivray took out one of his horse’s main rivals in the race and interfered with almost the whole Magic Millions field.
Similarly, Noel Callow copped a month on the sidelines for reckless riding and $15 000 fine for causing interference with a single horse – Foxplay, ironically like Jonkers yesterday ridden by Hugh Bowman – when he won the Vinery Stakes last year aboard Montoya’s Secret, and in Callow’s case it is highly arguable that the two horses in blue on Foxplay’s outside were equally culpable for Bowman’s lost chance in the race by shifting in on top of him as Montoya’s Secret shifted out.
In the case of McGillivray he blatantly and deliberately came across the whole field from an outside barrier while riding a favorite for a $2 million dollar race, and crossed the field when he knew that he could not possibly have been sufficiently clear of the runners inside him by the distance required under the rules of Australian racing, and did so with utter disregard for the potential catastrophic impact of what he was doing.
That’s reckless riding in any person’s language, any day of the week.
I can’t think of a big race where a jockey has done what McGillivray did at the start yesterday, and the reason I can’t is that in every state of Australia bar Queensland all riders know that if they do something like Ef Troop’s jockey did yesterday the stewards will come down on them like a ton of bricks being carted in a ten ton truck.
The only even remotely comparable cases that come to mind are Ray Cochrane’s ride on Taufan’s Melody in 1998, when he allowed that horse to shift in an almost put the later Melbourne Cup quinellaing pair of Kiwi horses Champagne and Jezabeel over the inside fence, and the Greg Hall ride on Merlene in the 2004 Golden Slipper, but the incidents that led to the reckless riding suspensions of both riders occurred in the final stages of their races when the runners were going hell for leather and flat out, not in the early stages when the starters were all trying to find a position.
Cochrane copped a three month suspension and $20 000 fine for his disgraceful effort, a punishment that with the winning cheque safely banked and in his back pocket the Pommy hoop gracefully accepted by putting his hand in the air and admitting that he was as guilty as sin.
Greg Hall wasn’t quite as gracious when he got hit with a $50 000 fine and two months on the sidelines for knocking a couple of horses on his outside arse over tit in the 2004 Slipper after deciding that if there wasn’t room to extract Merlene from the zip fastened pocket it was in then he’d bloody make it.
Nevertheless most people in racing – in fact pretty much everyone but Greg Hall – thought it was a fair cop, and it was, but still Hall only interfered with four other runners, and they were all pretty much paddling at the time anyway.
Matthew McGillivray on other hand smashed an expensive colt who was one of the favorites for the race into the fence causing it to be injured on all sides, and the backwash from his actions affected almost the entire field.
I will repeat again, this was not a case of simple careless riding. It was reckless act that endangered the welfare and safety of the other riders and horses in the race, and impacted on many of the others chances of success in what for most will be the richest race that they’ll ever compete in during their entire racing career.
I’ll take it a step further and say that Ef Troop’s rider’s actions were so untoward that the Stewards should have given serious consideration to disqualifying the horse from the race under AR 136 of the Australian rules of racing.
Let’s be blunt about this and call a spade a bloody shovel.
McGillivray’s tactics cost Jonker all chance of winning or running a place in the 2YO Magic Millions Classic, and effectively disqualified that horse from the race.
The stewards report says that at least another six horses were either severely checked or inconvenienced as a result of McGillivray’s decision to come across and try to force his way to the rail when he was only a half-length, maybe three-quarters at the most, in front of the horses inside of him.
The race day officials need an abacus and a set of new glasses each. I counted at least ten horses who copped some degree of interference in consequent chain reaction that occurred when Ef Troop came in on top of Secret Lady and Sunlight.
This wasn’t an error of judgement.
It was attempted murder.
Chief Steward Alan Reardon – a long time figure of ridicule in racing circles and a standing joke – commented on severity of the interference, the status of the race and the degree of carelessness in his report.
Then he gave Matthew McGillivray a suspension of just a month.
The whole world is laughing at Queensland and our racing officials attitude to rider safety and the integrity of the code. Those of us who still care enough to be interested in such things simply weep.
It seems we are going to have wait until a jockey dies on the main stage rather than a bush track before QRIC start to take workplace safety seriously in our sport.
What a sad, sad place Queensland Racing finds itself in.