A professional jockey recently claimed that a photographer was to blame for causing his horse to become unsettled during an important race. Despite the photographer being positioned at a considerable distance from the action, atop a ladder, Ben Melham, the jockey, insists that they had an adverse effect on his horse, Griff.
Melham managed to guide Griff to an impressive victory in the prestigious Caulfield Guineas race, but unfortunately, his triumph was overshadowed by a 10-day suspension for careless riding.
The officials at Caulfield Racecourse in Australia reviewed the situation and concluded that Melham had failed to control Griff when the horse suddenly veered off course towards the right, causing it to cross paths with other racers. Consequently, Melham’s suspension prevents him from participating in two significant upcoming racing events, namely the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate meetings.
In an effort to clear his reputation, Melham decided to file an appeal and submitted photographic evidence featuring a ladder-placed photographer near the infield area of the racetrack. He pointed out the photographer in question and labeled them as the “Culprit.” This piece of evidence was presented during a hearing held by the Victoria Racing Tribunal.
Matthew Stirling, representing Melham, argued, “Regardless of the photographer’s identity, the fact remains that when Griff became frightened and began running away from what it perceived as a threat, Melham had little control over the situation.” Although Stirling presented a valid defense, the panel overseeing the hearing remained unconvinced.
Chair John Bowman expressed the panel’s view, explaining that although the presence of the photographer had the potential to cause issues, they were not persuaded that this person’s presence caused the incident. The photographer was positioned about 20 to 30 meters from the finishing post and about 30 meters from the track, supported by a small step ladder on the infield side.
Certainly, any photographer allowed in the inner race circle would have been granted prior permission and likely had experience shooting from such vantage points without problems. While some horses might easily get startled by cameras, it does not appear to be the case for Griff, who actually attempted to approach the photographer in a friendly manner.
Given the significant distance between the photographer and the racehorse, it seems highly improbable that the photographer would have spooked the horse, especially as it appears that the photographer is located behind a billboard. However, I’m not an expert on the subject and can only speculate.