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By John Schreck | Thursday, August 24, 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.

The Craig Williams / Hartnell episode from Caulfield last Saturday has attracted national and probably international interest. The matter is still theoretically subject to possible appeal but I would be staggered if jockey Williams did appeal his $2000 fine.

The one aspect of the multi-faceted affair that disappointed me most was the precedent set, in terms of behaviour, by the leading rider in Melbourne.

Most of the young people in the sport would be looking to Craig Williams to set a good example ... as would the authorities.

The example he set last Saturday was a deplorable one!

For the life of me I can’t imagine the likes of Higgins or Harry White and so many others ever conducting themselves in such a way. I also can’t work out how Williams managed to jam the tools he had taken from the farrier’s bag into his boot in the first place.

What occurred runs seriously against the grain because I believe senior riders absolutely have an obligation to set the right standard.

The risk Williams took by taking such radical action to counter the fact that he gone to the start in the wrong (lighter) vest was enormous.

It would have been just awful if the tools came out of his boot during the running and hit another horse or rider in the face. Even if it had come out without doing anyone else harm Williams would have then weighed in light and that would also have been a terrible outcome, particularly for those who had bet on Hartnell.

As it is, Williams weighed in heavy. Still not good ... and how bad would it have been if Hartnell had got narrowly beaten carrying that excess weight, which was another distinct possibility at the jump.

The potential consequences of the actions of ... and I will say it again, the leading rider in Victoria ... were just too dramatic to even think about.

Suffice to say that racing, at all times, looks to uphold a professional standard.

Sadly, in this episode, coming in a Group 2 race dealing with a horse from a leading stable for one of the biggest owners in the world, it was more of a Micky Mouse show ... and very disturbing to boot!

It is my opinion that Williams’ conduct was totally unacceptable and I’m sure, in hindsight, he is going to be just as disappointed with his actions as those racing enthusiasts who are not happy with what they witnessed on Saturday.


The merits of the penalty handed out to Williams will be debated.

That argument would have to acknowledge the fact that establishing a penalty in this case would have to be somewhat difficult because it was a precedent setting breach of the rules and therefore it could possibly have led to a precedent setting penalty.

Mostly, when penalties are imposed, precedents have already been set.

In this particular case there was no precedent to follow for what occurred at the start ... and the stewards had to make their own call.

It was certainly a unique episode and, whilst I wouldn’t think it would happen again for another hundred years ... more is the pity that it happened at all!


I don’t think the procedure which seemingly led to William’s making a mistake by wearing the wrong vest needs to be changed at all.

For a jockey to weigh out a couple of races in advance is not a problem. In some parts of the world they weigh out at the start of the day for the seventh and eighth race and the like after which they put their gear in lockers and that type of thing.

I have always been in favour of a rider riding in the fourth race to weigh out for the fifth race as well, ahead of time if it is possible. It saves so much time and with simulcasting and the tight national racing schedule that we have now jockeys do have to hurry along in-between races.

In the summer time, in places like Queensland, you will find most riders, after they weigh out with their vest will go back to the air-conditioned room, take their vest off and cool down. Then they will put their vest and colours back on when they go out to ride.

There have been times where they have gone to get on the horse and not had their vest on and have had to run back to the room to rectify the matter.

So these are areas where mistakes can occur and obviously riders need to be vigilant and avoid those errors but, with the time constraints that are in play these days, I believe the provision for riders to weigh out in advance of races later in the day should stay firmly in place.

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