Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Aug. 18, 2022

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August 18th, 2022

A good Thursday to you all! A big three-year-old filly weekend looms as the Alabama S. (G1) at Saratoga and the Del Mar Oaks will be run this weekend. Looking forward to both cards. I wanted to write about inquiries and objections and the job of the stewards — a job I can tell you that I would never want!

Being a racecaller, I generally always get to know the stewards a little bit at every track I work at because (1) our offices are generally close together and (2) they have to come over to me and explain any and all decisions they’re making so I can announce them to the public. In fact, at Tampa Bay Downs, my office is actually attached to the stewards' room, so I go talk to them quite a bit, even just between races.

This week at Colonial Downs, we had a really good sprint race for the older male runners, the $150,000 Chesapeake S. Turning for home, Just Might grabbed the lead but had a host of challengers. At the sixteenth pole, there were four horses right across the track, and things got tight for a few of them as Necker Island gradually got the win ahead of Jalen Journey.

But shortly after that, I heard the footsteps coming from down the hall...the steward was coming!

“Hey, Jason, we’re going to have an inquiry into the stretch run.” So I announce that and maybe a minute later, I hear the footsteps again. “Also, we have a couple of rider objections.” So I announce that. Then we wait.

The head-on replay came up and was put on a repeat loop, showing the contact that was made not only at the 1/16th pole, but near the top of the stretch, which was where one of the objections was made.

Now, my opinion, of course, on any objections or inquiries means absolutely 0%, and, of course, I have no say or pull in them. Which is contrary to what some on Twitter seem to think, because, Lord knows I get the tweets! I understand as a forward-facing employee that is going to happen, though, so I usually just either ignore them if it’s just someone yelling at me because they’re obviously frustrated, or if they have a question I try to answer it.

I see people often get upset if an objection is lodged but the inquiry sign isn’t. To the best of my understanding, an objection is lodged generally by a jockey but can be lodged by an owner or trainer as well.

In Oregon, I was once told even a horseplayer could lodge an objection. Not sure if that was or is true, but I was told that by someone who should know such things. But there are several times when an objection is lodged but an inquiry isn’t. From my understanding, the same video review and vote process occurs with the stewards, it’s just initiated by the jock and not them. An inquiry is the stewards themselves initiating the review and vote, but the process once it starts seems to be the same no matter if it’s labeled inquiry or objection.

So back to the Chesapeake. I watched the head-on replay probably three of the 15 times they looped it. Honestly, after the race, my adrenaline was pumping pretty good, so I was mostly just trying to calm down during that time. But in watching it, I knew it was a tough decision that I thought could have gone any of several ways. Even the rare potential double-DQ came to my mind.

I opened Twitter and saw that many folks in my timeline were discussing the replay and giving their opinions. Similar to my assessment, it seemed many thought it could go one of many ways. A colleague of mine from Churchill Downs even said, “They should show this replay in stewards school,” essentially showing what a difficult decision it could be. 

I used to get a kick out of announcing a DQ or a no change, but now it’s one of the least favorite parts of my job, just because as a player I know how sick it is to get DQ’d even if you know you should. So I read the announcement, tried to make it as professional and formal as possible, and moved on. But every time there’s a tough decision like that, it makes me glad I’m not a steward and I’m just the messenger.