From the Commentary Box 25 April 2016

The Championship Stakes at Ellerslie last Saturday could be a game changer.

Not in the respect of what happened, but more from the perspective of what didn’t happen. History will show THE HASSLER, trained by Roger James, won the Group Two race with Vinny Colgan aboard.

What may be forgotten in the passing of time, is the drama and downright frightening circumstances that unfolded during the race. Those circumstances involved the pre post favourite, ROMANTIC MAID, also trained by Roger James.

As the field swung out of the straight with 1700m to travel, ROMANTIC MAID, who was vying for the lead, appeared to clip heels, dislodging rider Danielle Johnson. Johnson copped a severe buffeting as the rest of the field tried to avoid her, with a number of runners chances clearly affected.

As the field continued on, the drama was centred on Johnson who was prone on the track about 50m past the winning post. Calling the race, I was mindful of trying to convey where the horses were in the running but I was also mindful of the danger to the obviously injured Johnson.

Most times the St John’s Ambulance personnel, with the assistance of officials, are able to move the injured jockey off the track and out of harm’s way. As the field thundered towards the home turn with 500m to go, it was clear to see they weren’t able to shift Johnson from the track. This presented a conundrum for the Stipendiary Stewards.

Should they call the race off, in light of the imminent danger to horses and riders in the race and the personnel attending the injured rider? Remember, Johnson was lying on the track just 50m or so from the winning post.

I have no doubt in my mind that the race should have been abandoned as soon as the Stipendiary Stewards realised Johnson could not be moved. The risk and danger was too great.

It transpired later, that under the Rules of Racing, the Stipendiary Stewards have no power to abandon a race.

And this is where I believe last Saturday’s race could be a game changer.

Surely the circumstances surrounding this incident will lead to a rule change, giving stewards the power to abandon a race. The safety and well-being of all must take precedence. It was nothing more than a sheer fluke that no one was seriously injured.

How did the people treating Johnson on the track, not to mention Johnson herself, feel as the field thundered up the home straight towards them?

Winning rider Vinny Colgan was unaware of the drama until the winning post. He, like all the other riders in the race, had to take evasive action to avoid the injured rider. How they managed to avoid any further mayhem was testament to their skills.

And a reminder, there needs to be an immediate rule change.

Do it now.

Catch you next week.

Cheers

George.