Who are the stewards in horse racing?

Stewards are a vital component of horse racing and their judgements can have an impact on bets

Horse racing stewards


Even if you’re new to horse racing betting you’ll know there isn’t a visible referee on the course when the horses are racing. Of course, it would look totally ridiculous to have a ‘referee horse’ running alongside the jockeys to ensure everyone is behaving.

But horse racing in the UK and Ireland is officiated – and jockeys can be punished if they break the rules while racing. Here, Paddy Power explains everything you need to know about horse racing stewards, who they are and what they do. 

What are racing stewards?

Racing stewards are a mix of paid and volunteer officials who effectively act as referees at a race meeting. They oversee all Flat and National Hunt races in the UK and Ireland to ensure fair play and act as arbiters if there is an issue or a breach in the Rules of Racing. A steward can open an investigation for issues such as:

  • Improper riding – such as overuse of whip
  • Careless riding – such as interfering with other horses or riding dangerously

If there is an issue to resolve, the stewards will call an ‘enquiry’ to determine if there was foul play (even if it’s accidental). A ‘stipendiary’ steward leads the enquiry and aims to quickly figure out if any rules have been broken by reviewing the race and interviewing jockeys involved. If any rules have been broken, they can demote or promote horses to determine a new final standings, while sometimes horses may be disqualified.

Horse racing stewards

Stewards watch on from their vantage point as the horse race gets underway

Who are racing stewards?

Racing stewards are officials appointed by the British Horseracing Authority to oversee the fair running of races across the country. There are usually three stewards and a stipendiary steward at a meeting, and they are appointed by the racecourse (upon the approval of the BHA).

If a stewards enquiry is called, the stipendiary steward, local stewards, other officials, the trainers, jockeys, other connections and stable staff can be required to come together and review the incident in question.

Only once a stewards enquiry has been concluded can the jockeys be ‘weighed in’ and the result be declared. This impacts on racing betting as you may have to wait for your winnings while the enquiry goes ahead.

UK and Ireland horse racing

All UK and Ireland horse races are watched over by stewards

Other steward responsibilities

Stewards also have the ability to change arrangements of a race meeting if required, and omit or alter any fence or hurdle in a race. They can even declare a race void, abandon a race or simply scrap an entire race meeting if they deem it right to do so.

Furthermore, stewards can direct any horse to be examined, take a urine, blood, hair or other intimate sample from a horse to be examined, withdraw a horse from a race, or disqualify a horse.



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