The princely sum of £55 has cost racing the services of regular race starter Chris Stubbs. He decided to hang up his flag after the British Horseracing Authority refused to reimburse him the money he spent acquiring support to ensure that racing at Hexham went ahead last month.
All starters have their assistants, and Stubbs has two people he can call on to undertake that role when he officiates at Hexham. But last month, crucially on Derby day, he learned at the last minute that neither of his regular assistants was available. Stubbs knew of someone local who could do the job, and recruited him to help out.
When he submitted a claim to the BHA, they refused to pay up because the individual was not on the list of casual employees. Stubbs told the Racing Post, “I was told I should have contacted my bosses but they were all at the Derby and I didn’t want to bother them at such short notice. I phoned human resources at the BHA to explain what had happened, only to be told they couldn’t pay the man as he wasn’t on the rota, so they couldn’t reimburse me.”
The BHA sent an official to Uttoxeter last Tuesday evening, where Stubbs was on duty, where he was told exactly the same thing. He told the official that he would start the final two races at the meeting, but no more. He was packing it in.
He said, “It wasn’t about the money, it was a matter of principle. I was trying to thin on my feet and didn’t want to bother anybody; I just wanted things to run smoothly, but there you go.”
As expected, BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey declined to offer a view, simply saying, “It is BHA policy not to comment on employment matters.” But was it really necessary to lose 25 years of experience over £55? And what does it say if an organisation is not prepared to allow senior on course officials any kind of discretion to deal with last minute problems that are bound to arise every once in a while?
Perhaps the clerk of the course does have the power to agree such things, and Stubbs’ error was not to seek his agreement. I imagine that if he had rung someone at Epsom just as they were tucking into their pre-race lunch Stubbs might well have been told to get on and sort something out.