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FROM THE SHERIFF'S DESK - PUTTING INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS INTO PERSPECTIVE

By John Schreck | Wednesday, March 8, 2017

John Schreck, a former Chief Steward in both Sydney and Hong Kong, has seen both the colourful and the dark sides of racing. His wealth of experience and his deep knowledge of racing matters across the board is unquestioned and the reputation he built as a racing ‘lawman’ remains firmly entrenched in racing’s history. Schreck’s personal blog, ‘From the Sheriff’s Desk', appears exclusively on HRO.

Joao Moreira has been a very good jockey in Singapore and Hong Kong and his record eight wins at a meeting in Hong Kong over the weekend rubber-stamped that fact.

Without taking anything away from Moreira’s ability and achievement it should be remembered that jockey numbers are restricted in those precincts and I think before he can be labelled the best in the world, or in the Ryan Moore category, he has to demonstrate his skills more regularly on a wider stage.

Not that Hong Kong is not a big stage but there are only about twenty-five to thirty jockeys there and, bear in mind, some of those are Chinese boys who are learning the trade. Also, Moreira is naturally light whereas someone like Zac Purton is wasting hard and spending half of his life in a hot bath to get his weight down.

Moreira is a very good jockey. You could say God put him on earth to be a jockey but when you talk about the likes of Ryan Moore, Olivier Peslier, Christophe Soumillon you talk about jockeys who ride with great success wherever they go ... Europe, America etc.

Moreira has obviously got the hang of the system in Hong Kong and has taken his reputation to new heights since his Singapore days.

He is a wonderful jockey. He is very successful ... but ‘the best in the world?’

The point I am making is that Moreira’s achievements should be kept in perspective.

When he leaves Hong Kong Moreira will no doubt ply his trade in Australia or Europe or somewhere else and compete regularly in an ‘open market’ and that will be an interesting phase of his career.

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A question has been put to me which was prompted by Michelle Payne’s comments on the Flemington track and her call, via a tweet, for the track manager’s position to be reviewed.

The question is: ‘Do I think is it acceptable for a person in one field of racing expertise to publically criticise a person in another area of racing expertise?’

I don’t think it is ... but I’ll qualify that answer.

As I have said before I worked in a dinosaur age and, in my time, that would certainly not have been allowed to happen. Had it done so it would have been headed off immediately ... and rightly so.

Back then there were occasions where licenced people were writing for the newspapers and the committee of the AJC made it quite clear they could be a licenced person or a journalist. They could not be both.

Those days are all gone and we all have to acknowledge and accept that it is now a very different world in which we live.

Licencees now write newspaper columns, appear on television programs and take to social media to express views about things. Of course everybody is entitled to an opinion but sometimes, I’m sorry to say, I don’t think a public forum is the place where certain opinions should be aired.

Quite how racing manages all of that I’m not sure.

For the most part you would hope it can rely on the good will and common sense of the participants but there will be cases which racing has to address.

A fact that is still in play ... and one that licencees have to remember ... is that for anybody to participate in the racing industry is not a given. It is a licence granted to them with conditions and it can be taken away.

When they take out their licence they sign a contract that they will conform to the rules. Implied in that is the understanding that they have certain responsibilities to the sport ... including their conduct ... and by signing their contract they agree to those conditions. If it is ruled that they breached those conditions, there are consequences.

Michelle Payne, for example, was fined $1500 by Racing Victoria stewards for the opinion she expressed in her tweet.

But things are ever changing and sometimes they seem to be changing by the week ... not by the year.

These changes include matters relating to restricting a person’s freedom to express their views so racing authorities have to be very careful they work to the letter of the licencees contract and don’t overstep the mark.

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On the subject of expressing opinions I see that Craig Williams, after being suspended, made the comment that he can’t understand how the Chief Steward can sleep at night.

I can tell him that most Chief Stewards sleep very well ... for two reasons.

Firstly, they spend their lives trying to protect people like Craig Williams by endeavouring to ensure that every race is run safely.

The other reason they sleep well at night is that usually by the time they go home after a race meeting they are buggered.

Most stewards don’t enjoy depriving any young man or woman of their right to work. They only do that when they deem it appropriate because they are trying to keep the participants safe, which is their primary responsibility.

The thing that is always in the back of their minds when they go to work is ... I hope they all go home safe tonight.

So I hope that, in these few paragraphs, I have answered Craig Williams’ question.

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I was saddened this week by the passing of Jack Purtell.

He was a great jockey, with three Melbourne Cup’s victories included in his long list of feature race successes.

I don’t think he was ever suspended in his life and when he retired as a race rider he worked as a stipendiary steward for the Victoria Race Club for about fifteen years.

As a jockey Purtell was very successful all around the world and he was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame in 2004.

Not only was he a wonderful jockey but, more importantly, he was a very good citizen.

He was 95.

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