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By John Schreck | Wednesday, January 3, 2018

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.

A couple of protests in the last week have prompted the usual debate on the protest process and how certain decisions are reached.

A protest hearing is simply a hearing held with the power and responsibility to, if necessary, right a wrong!

It is not a hearing to decide if someone breached the rules for example. That can come later. A protest hearing is a particular hearing with a particular goal which pertains directly to the race result.

During protest hearings very rarely are questions asked by stewards hearing the matter. They listen to the evidence presented before them and, together with the parties concerned, they watch the video and then make a decision.

There is the old story that the evidence given is disregarded but I can assure you that it not the case. As far as I’m concerned over the years it has not been disregarded.

The point is that the case presented, while listened to and certainly taken into account ... no matter how good that case is ... it cannot override and defeat the tangible evidence that is provided by race videos which is there for all to see.

If that evidence does not substantiate, or even contradicts the case being presented by a particular party, they might feel that their evidence was disregarded but it was actually considered but not accepted.

Often good riders, on seeing the video, will either go in hard or, sometimes, put the white flag up because they know what the likely outcome will be after seeing the film.

It is a fact that some trainers and jockeys are more successful in protests than others. That is because before they put in their protest they can read the circumstances much better than some of their peers and will have a well prepared, well thought out argument.

The really good advocates in protests don’t go over the top because they don’t need to because of how well they can read the film.

Having said that, any party involved in a protest hearing is obviously trying to sell their own case. You can understand that and you can’t blame them for that. That is also something that is taken into account when deciding the matter.

The bottom line though is that tangible evidence, will always trump personal opinion.

There are a small number of times when even the evidence in play through race videos is open to debate, which is where supposed controversy can arise. In those cases stewards have to make a measured decision on the best supporting facts.

Thankfully though, in this day and age of improved technology (clear videos from a variety of angles) by far the majority of decisions are made courtesy of tangible evidence which is hard to refute.


Times and dates of race meetings in Victoria and South Australia this weekend have already been changed due to the heatwave expected to hit both states.

That is a good decision.

I am a great fan of proactivity rather than reactivity. It is better to be proactive than wait until the day and then have to react.

Of course the weather forecast might change before the weekend ... they often do ... but nobody can be criticised for making an early decision. It is easy to react afterwards but it takes a little bit more courage to make decisions beforehand.

In this instance, the powers that be should be given due credit for making the call.

Irrespective of how the weather plays out in those states this weekend, they have made a decision based on the current evidence available to them and at least now all of those participants, some of whom travel their horses a fair distance, now know exactly what is happening and can plan accordingly and they should thank authorities for that.


The win of Material Man in the Perth Cup saw the first win in the race for a father / daughter combination.

Material Man is trained by Justin Warwick and it was ridden by Lucy Warwick

I saw Lucy Warwick ride a little bit when I did some work over there some time ago. She is a very competent jockey and any success she has wouldn’t surprise me.

I think she can hold her own pretty well anywhere.

Congratulations to the family for creating history with that result.

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