Racing: Senior steward promises to bring better service

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The Independent Online
ON FRIDAY Sir Thomas Pilkington takes over the title of Senior Steward of the Jockey Club, but while the title remains the authority that once accompanied it has been relinquished and Pilkington will enjoy only a fraction of the power of his predecessors, writes John Cobb.

Pilkington, 60, succeeds Lord Hartington, the prime mover behind ceding 200 years of Jockey Club control of racing to the British Horseracing Board a year ago. Yesterday, Pilkington was at pains to emphasise that, despite losing grip of racing's purse strings, the Jockey Club still has a key role to play in the sport's administration.

But in including such items as 'new blindfold designs' and 'monitoring off-times' among a list of projects on which the Jockey Club are working, the impression was strengthened that racing's former rulers have now been reduced to tinkering on the periphery of the sport.

Nevertheless, the Jockey Club will continue to perform regulatory functions and Pilkington pledged to 'perfect' operations by improving the consistency of stewards' decisions and establishing better channels of communication with the public.

Sir Thomas said: 'It has been fashionable in recent months for some commentators to suggest that with the advent of the BHB, the Jockey Club is left with just a few minor duties. Nothing could be further from the truth.

'There is a lot of hard work to do to consolidate our position. The Jockey Club is reverting to what it was originally set up to provide, make some form of order out of chaos.

'But we do need to pause for breath and try to perfect the tasks that Jockey Club is left with. We have been fairly good at the regulatory role so far. There has been a lot of change internally and quite a lot regarding disciplinary matters on course.

'We are determined to get the consistency of verdict we are sometimes criticised about. Inevitably there are differences of opinion but we are paying greater attention to the training of stewards.'

Better information on inquiries will be provided to racegoers with stewards announcing not just when an inquiry is called but which incident is being examined.

'If the public is to get full enjoyment from their racing, then they must understand the decisions which have been taken, and appreciate why these decisions have been reached. I intend to make sure that this is possible.'

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