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A Stewards Enquiry (most frequently applied in horse racing) is a review system that takes place after a race to ensure the race has been run fairly and race-rules haven’t been broken.
It is most commonly seen when horses interfere with one another, compromising the chances of a particular horse. If it is subsequently decided that a horse or jockey’s actions have prevented another horse from winning and there is a clear rule violation, then placings can be reversed or a horse can be “thrown out” of the race. In the UK, it’s rare for a result to be overturned as a result of interference.
An enquiry can also be used to determine whether a horse has run on its merits and has been given every chance to achieve its best position.
The jockeys and trainers can both be questioned with regards to the enquiry immediately after the race. At the racetrack, there will usually be an announcement advising racegoers that there is a Stewards Enquiry. If the enquiry involves interference, then the enquiry itself will usually only take a few minutes. However, they do have to wait for the jockeys to return post-race and the average time taken to announce a result is around 15 minutes.
If you have backed the winner of a race who has been demoted due to interference, you may still be able to claim your winnings. Some bookmakers will pay “first past the post” in a race and this means if your selection finishes first the enquiry is irrelevant. This can also work against the punter if a selection finishes second and is then promoted to first.
However, several online bookmakers now pay out both results as a winner as a gesture of goodwill. It’s always worth checking the terms and conditions to ensure your chosen bookie offers this incentive. It’s rare for on-course bookmakers to offer this and they usually stand by the result of a Stewards Enquiry.
The most famous Stewards Enquiry in recent history came in the 2015 St Leger. After Simple Verse finished first in the race, it was decided that Bondi Beach was significantly inconvenienced and Aidan O’Brien’s charge was controversially awarded the world’s oldest classic. Connections of Simple Verse then appealed the decision and Simple Verse was re-instated as the winner several weeks later. This created a messy situation for some bookmakers and several paid out on antepost bets once the final decision had been made.
The rules of interference differ greatly across the racing world. Jamie Spencer famously lost a race in America after drifting off a true-line in the Grade One Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park in 2015. In Great Britain he would have almost certainly kept the race but under American rules he was correctly demoted. Similar interference rules also apply in France and Germany.