This is the start of Race 8 at the internationally televised Rockhampton TAB meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Justin Stanley is the jockey circled in red, and the horse he is riding is the $3.60 favourite Red Satin.
Now unless I am seeing things, Stanley is sitting bolt upright on the horse in the stalls just two seconds before the starter is about to say go, and appears to be making no effort at all to get tensed and ready to ping.
A second later – half a second before the jump – he still isn’t.
Stanley is too high in the saddle, he’s not balanced, and he is a million to one of doing anything other than missing this start.
The starter Mr Conway hits the button and the gates fly.
As the laws of physics demand, Red Satin misses the start badly, and the favourite punters tickets are confetti before they’ve even gone two strides.
Stanley has helped to make of a good thing of it by going down low as the barriers fly, way too low at a time he should be coming up like every other jockey in the race.
Red Satin catches up to the field, and at the top of the straight Stanley pulls it to the outside.
For about half a second.
Then he tucks it back in.
A bit later he comes out again, but the horse keeps veering in as it starts to sprint, and the jockey doesn’t appear to the naked eye to be doing a great deal about it.
As they reach the 100 metre mark Stanley gives up even pretending to try. He stands bolt upright in the irons and stops riding the horse out at all.
Now what should happen next is a subject that they teach racing stewards in pre-school.
The Stewards cannot possibly have missed what’s just happened at the start.
Behind the gates there are half a dozen barrier attendants and the vet, and the starter himself is perched up high on his rostrum staring at the stalls with an eagle eye view.
There is a Steward perched up even higher in the tower than stands directly above and to the side of the 1200 metre start, and that official’s sole job in this race is watch the start and the first few hundred metres of the race.
And then of course there is the replay, which you and I are looking at still frames of now.
I spotted it on the first watch, and stopped the tape to go back and check whether I was imagining things.
Common sense would dictate that immediately after each race, one of the Stewards – the most sensible option being the cadet, in this case Ms E Suli – would be sitting in the room quickly reviewing the video to see whether there were any questions they might need to ask anyone before correct weight is declared.
So Stanley’s seemingly bizarre behaviour is impossible to miss.
There can only be three logical explanations.
- That the horse was fractious at the start, and had thrown Stanley up in the saddle (it wasn’t, and it didn’t)
- The horse has a physical problem
- That something may potentially be amiss about jockey Stanley’s steer
So – Stewarding 101 – this is what you do.
(a) Ask the starter and the Steward in the 1200 tower whether Red Satin was playing up
(b) Get the vet to conduct a post-race examination of the horse to check for any possible abnormalities
(c) If the answers to (a) and (b) are ‘no’ and ‘none’, call Justin Stanley into the room, tell him you have concerns about his actions at the start, convene an inquiry, then adjourn it to give you time to go and have a look at the betting sheets (and pretend you know how to read them)
Oh, and don’t forget to make sure the swab attendant takes six vials of blood from the horse, for everyone had neglected to before the race.
Were any of these simple steps taken? Did any of the Stewards core tasks get done?
Is George Pell getting a knighthood for services to children?
No, not one, and no.
Red Satin and Justin Stanley didn’t even get a mention.
Welcome to Circus Queensland, where every race day’s a carnival.
Goodness, gracious me.