The Horse Racing Umpire


With the blast of a horn, the race commences and the crowd cheers! All eyes are peeled on the jockey-horse duos charging towards the finishing line.


Amidst the excitement, working hard behind-the-scenes is a team who puts in their 110 per cent in ensuring racing integrity and discipline on the tracks - the Stipendiary Stewards.


Armed with state-of-the-art monitoring systems and sensors, Singapore Turf Club’s five-man strong team of experienced stipendiary stewards track every single movement and action that happens at the more than 10 races happening each weekend.


At the helm of this team is John Davidson, Chief Stipendiary Steward, who has more than 35 years of experience in the horse racing industry. Stipendiary stewards play a critical role in the industry. Seen as the umpire of horse racing, they hold the power to make important decisions that can affect the results of a race or a jockey’s career.


Meet John Davidson, the Chief Stipendiary Steward who enforces fair and competitive racing at Singapore Turf Club


“With great powers come great responsibility. Stewards have one of the toughest jobs in the industry; we protect the integrity of races by ensuring that all participants – trainers, jockeys and horses included – abide by the rules of racing,” Davidson said.


“Our racing eco-system is dynamic, with a network of owners, trainers, jockeys and a wider community that cares for the well-being of the horses. It is our responsibility to uphold racing standards through a rigorous process that involves regulating, monitoring, inspecting and investigating,” he added.


Singapore racing follows rules set by the Malaysian Racing Association (MRA), one of which is that jockeys and horses in Singapore must ride to the satisfaction of the stewards.


"Every horse is allowed to run on merit without any interference while also ensuring safety on the tracks. Any failure to adhere to the rulings will result in penalties such as disqualification or suspension, depending on the severity of the breach,” continued Davidson.


Another key reason why the stipendiary stewards team enforces such strict adherence to MRA rules is to make sure that everyone gets to go home safely at the end of each race day.


Monitoring and tracking the developments from race to race


“Accidents and injuries involving horses and jockeys might be far and few in between but one is still one too many. Safety will always remain our number one priority – we will not hesitate to step in if things become dangerous on the tracks,” Davidson stated.


Stipendiary stewards monitor and track the conditions of jockeys, trainers, and horses at the Parade Ring prior to races


The role of stipendiary steward requires a special class of people. In fact, this job is not for everyone. To qualify as a steward, it is important that one possesses traits and qualities like integrity, an upright character, strong mental resilience, and the ability to communicate clearly to all stakeholders, functions, and departments across the Club. 


“I have always taught my team that having integrity and being transparent are key aspects of our job. We can never have anyone questioning our integrity. We cannot afford to have grey areas!” he exclaimed.


Keeping to this philosophy, the stipendiary steward department has earned its name and right as one of the most respected departments in the Club.


However, this can also be isolating, as the team has to draw a line in fraternising with colleagues and the racing community whom they interact most closely with.


“It’s important for stipendiary stewards to maintain professional working relationships with everyone. As a result, not many have the mental resilience to deal with the isolation that we sometimes experience. This is why a happy team can make a whole lot of difference for us stewards at work,” said Davidson.


“A happy team brings good results! Every steward contributes in different ways and manners – but always complementing each other to deliver our best as a team. Over the years, my team has remained loyal to each other and supportive of that – and these are things that I am grateful and thankful for,” he shared. 



May 2022



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