New interference rules apply in France from March 31st on

31 March 2018

Photo scoopdyga.com

As horse racing becomes global, different rules in horse racing become a problem for competitors and bettors around the world. A process was initiated over ten years ago by an International Stewards Conference to find a way to harmonize the rules as much as possible.

International Federation of Horseracing Authorities created a Harmonization Committee, with a representative of most major horse racing nations. The work of this committee has brought out two groups of countries. In the A group, stewards generally consider that a horse causing an interference can only be demoted if the horse interfered with would have finished in front of the sufferer but the interference. Priority is therefore given to the original placing at the wining post. On the other hand, there is Japan, the United States, Latin America and the countries of continental Europe, like France. This is the B Group, where stewards seek to assess whether, because of the interference, any horse was prevented from getting a better placing.

Over the years, members of the B Group switched sides following arguable cases in major races. It also appeared that several countries from the A Group had already followed that path in the past. Therefore, especially for Britain, a return to the B Group looked like a regression. Similarly, it quickly became apparent that it was not possible to establish a rule that summarized the two.

The Harmonization Committee of the IFHA finally agreed on the following text: “If, in the opinion of the Staging Authority’s relevant judicial body, a horse or its rider causes interference and finishes in front of the horse interfered with but irrespective of the incident(s) the sufferer would not have finished ahead of the horse causing the interference, the judge’s placings will remain unaltered."

In a second paragraph, however, it is stated: “If, in the opinion of the Staging Authority’s relevant judicial body, a horse or its rider causes interference and finishes in front of the horse interfered with and if not for the incident(s) the sufferer would have finished ahead of the horse causing the interference, the interferer will be placed immediately behind the sufferer.”

Finally, the model rule states that “Racing Authorities may, within their Rules, provide for the disqualification of a horse from a race in circumstances in which the Staging Authority’s relevant judicial body deems that the rider has ridden in a dangerous manner”. That last bit was added under France’s recommendation and it will be implemented as it is in France from March 31st on, along with the model rule.

Dangerous riding must therefore meet a definition. That is if the rider knowingly interferes with a competitor to continue to progress or improve his position, thus taking a risk for his own safety or that of other competitors. This is for example, when a rider tries to squeeze in insufficient space. The second definition of dangerous riding is the rider who does not care about his opponents riding in an incomptetent manner who badly interfere with another competitor.

Dangerous riding offence will result in a minimum of 6 days suspension (8 days for apprentices and in Group races, up to 15 to 20 days in case of a fall). If the interference is not caused by dangerous riding but still causes demotion, the penalty shall be a 2 to 4 days suspension (150€ to 2 days if the finishing order isn’t affected).

Director of racing at France Galop, Henri Pouret explained: "In the future, the challenge will also be to harmonize the interpretation of regulations between countries, on comparable cases. I think it will be more complicated to get sanctions harmonized. For example, we do not run with the same frequency in France and Japan. Therefore a suspension of the same duration does not have the same consequences. We have been touring the whole country to introduce these new rules to all our stewards and they are very well received, since they do not appear as revolutionary. That should not be too much of a problem for the stewards. Finally, it should be noted that riders who go abroad are already used to this type of regulation.”