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THE TURF COPS - By Shailendra Awasthi ITNN

Posted on - 02 Feb 2011

Also Known As Stipendiary Stewards, Their Job Is To Ensure Free & Fair Racing While At The Same Time Keeping An Eye On Suspicious Dealings At A Race
By Shailendra Awasthi I TNN

   As the horses jump out of the stalls, the crowds at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse suddenly get attentive, training their eyes on the television sets, trying to spot their fancied one’s progress.
   At the same time, work begins for the lone man sitting on the upper deck. Armed with a powerful binocular, his job is to track the movements of the participating horses and jockeys.
   Even when the horses come close to the winning post, and the cheering and shouting from the crowd gets louder, the man remains quiet, showing no emotions whatsoever. “I don’t back any horse, so it doesn’t affect me,” says Pradyumna Singh, senior race cop at the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), also called senior stipendiary steward in racing parlance.
   The 55-year-old’s main job is to ensure that every race is run according to the rules, every jockey is riding in a fair manner, and that there’s no undue interference to any horse’s running. “Our responsibility goes beyond that. We have to protect the integrity of racing by ensuring that all the participants, including the trainers, jockeys and stable hands, abide by the rules of racing. We’re involved at every stage, 24 hours a day. There is quite a lot of work, from early in the morning till the last race of the day” explains Singh, who has been a stipendiary steward for over two decades now.
   Isn’t race-fixing a big worry? “Every action can’t be categorized as fixing,”says Singh,who is assisted in his job by three juniors. “We go about it in a different way. We ensure that every horse is allowed to run on merit without any interference by any professional or outsider. We have to keep track of the running patterns of all runners, as some horses like to run in a peculiar manner. For instance, some prefer to come from behind, some like the start-to-finish style, some like to stay in the front bunch and so on,” says Singh. “This helps us pick up clues.”
   While many visit the bookmakers’ ring to place bets, a stipendiary steward keeps an eye on the pattern of odds on various horses. “If there’s an alarming drift in the odds of runners, especially on a fancied one, we try to make sense of it to spot the wrongdoing,” he says.
   During the race, jockeys’ movements are a must-watch. “We have to make sure every jockey makes the best effort, whether he uses the available gaps to bring his horse to the front while not causing interference to others. Also, we keep a count of the whips, so that he doesn’t exceed the permissible number of whipping a horse,” adds Singh.
   When they do spot any wrongdoing, foul riding or cases of causing interference to other runners during the race, the stipendiary stewards call the jockey or trainer for questioning. “After conducting the enquiry and noting down the statements of the parties concerned, we present the case to stewards of the club who act like courts to conduct further questioning and decide the punishment,” informs Singh. Stipendiary stewards have the power to impose a fine of up to 5000.
5000 The maximum amount of fine a stipendiary steward can impose if he detects any wrongdoing

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