The road back to sporting events has been a long one, with the pandemic that is causing many issues for participants and spectators. Because of the nature of the health crisis, there have been a number of measures put into place in the past year and a half, to make it as safe and accessible as possible. However, breaches of these rules can be dangerous – and as such can be punished severely, which has been the case most recently with some of the sport’s top jockeys being suspended for the entire Melbourne Spring Carnival and will no longer have any place in the 2021 Melbourne Cup race day.
The jockey’s that have been removed from the country’s biggest racing carnival entirely include Jamie Kah, Ben Melham, Celine Gaudray and Ethan Brown. They all chose to attend an AirBnB together in Mornington, even though the state of Victoria was still under strict lockdown at the time in an attempt to keep the virus under control.
It was later confirmed that joining these four jockeys was Mark Zahra, a Group 1 winning jockey who will also be receiving the same suspension as the other attendees.
A Bad Decision
Both the incident and the resulting suspension were confirmed by Racing Victoria – and these actions have been met by heavy criticism. Giles Thompson, the CEO of Racing Victoria, described the behaviour of the jockeys in question as a “slap in the face” to every single person in the horse racing industry that has gone to extreme lengths in order to protect the sport throughout this ongoing crisis since the restrictions and rules were first introduced back in March 2020.
Many believe that they could have been responsible for not just putting the Melbourne Spring Carnival in jeopardy, but also the future of the sport, simply through their blatantly thoughtless actions.
Lessons to be Learned
There is a strong feeling by leaders in the sport that given the potential impact that their actions may have had on the overall safety of the wider racing community, that strong and significant charges were vital. The breach of the COVID rules could have jeopardised the livelihood of the 25,000 + Victorian jobs that are supported by the racing as well as the welfare of horses that are reliant on the care and daily exercise that is provided by the industry.
Unsurprisingly, the organisers behind the Melbourne Cup and Melbourne Spring Carnival have called out the reckless behaviour, and described the actions as ‘incredibly disappointing’ – and not what they would expect from such names in the industry.
By dishing out such severe consequences, lessons should be learned – and it should now be more than clear that anyone looking to take part in any upcoming sporting events will have to be responsible and make sure that they follow all the industry and government rules and directives.
A Full Enquiry
After initial discussions after the breach took place, the enquiry was adjourned until 27th August – where there was to be a thorough and full investigation into what happened. Following this, it was revealed that the five offending jockeys would be receiving a three-month suspension from the sport, which means that they are now banned from competing in the Spring Carnival.
All jockeys accused of the breach pleaded guilty to the charges and as a result, they will all be out of competitive action until the end of November. This could have been much worse, however, and the reason it was kept to just three months is due to the fact that each jockey pleaded guilty, that it was their first offence of this type – and that every jockey expressed remorse at their actions. They also took into account the personal circumstances of each rider and the fact that this three-month suspension means missing out on some of the biggest races of the season, which is a tough punishment in itself.
Breaches Will Not be Tolerated
This makes it clear that the sporting world in Australia is still on uneven ground – and for it to run smoothly, rules will need to be obeyed. Breaching any rules will be seen in a very harsh light and other jockeys looking forward to the Melbourne Spring Carnival will need to make sure they follow the regulations to the letter,