By: Lisa Hocking for AGCO Race Line

The AGCO employs 16 Race Officials, responsible for administering the Rules of Racing for all three breeds – Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred – before, during and after a race card. Traditionally, race officials had different designations and responsibilities specific…

The AGCO employs 16 Race Officials, responsible for administering the Rules of Racing for all three breeds – Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred – before, during and after a race card. Traditionally, race officials had different designations and responsibilities specific to the breed of horse they were officiating over (i.e. Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse “Stewards” and Standardbred “Judges”). In 2015, the “Race Official Program” was developed by Ontario Racing Commission staff and now serves as the basis of staff development for Racing Operations within the AGCO. The Program is designed so that Race Officials are cross-trained between harness racing and flat racing, making them fully qualified and proficient at officiating at any of the three breeds of racing at recognized tracks in Ontario.

Getting Started Training

Apprentices are required to go through a one-year training program designed to prepare them to be an active member of a team of Race Officials, regardless of the breed. Training includes rotation through all race breeds as a fourth member of the stand (mentored by the Senior Official) and also includes: formal film reviews; database training (Standardbred Canada and CRIS (the AGCO’s Central Racing Information System)); learning the role and function of the race office, licensing agents, the test barn and the mutuel department; and, spending time with inspectors in order to understand their role and function. They are also required to complete courses to obtain formal accreditation.

Continuing Education

The AGCO invests in ongoing training and accreditation for its Race Officials including continuous on-track cross-breed training and film review and by supporting self-directed learning. This includes education and development programs, seminars and workshops, through such resources as Standardbred Canada, the Jockey Club, the AGCO, the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency (CPMA), Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators (SOAR) and Racing Officials Accreditation Program (ROAP).

Other Responsibilities

Beyond in-race adjudication, Race Officials are responsible for several administrative functions, such as filing Race Reports and issuing rulings. Additionally, they perform activities on non-race days, such as officiating over qualifying events in Standardbred racing and officiating over draws in Thoroughbred racing.

For more information, you can speak to any AGCO Race Official at the track, or one of our AGCO Racing Operations staff by calling 416-326-8700 or toll free in Ontario at 1-800-522-2876.

Senior AGCO Race Official, Gunnar Lindberg

Officiating a race is not as easy as it sounds – nor is it all the job entails. We spoke with Senior AGCO Race Official, Gunnar Lindberg, about his racing career, his role as a Racing Official and why still, after 50 years, his passion for the sport is as strong as ever.

His grandfather was a jockey. His dad Herb “Lindy” Lindberg was a Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame jockey. And AGCO’s own Gunnar Lindberg? Yes, he was a jockey, too.

For him, there was never a question about what he would do with his life. “I just always knew what I wanted to be,” he said. After quitting school at age 16 to live and work at Woodbine Racetrack, Gunnar rode for 18 years, winning over 1,000 races including some 70 high-profile stakes. The horse that stands out for him is Selari Spirit, a horse he rode early on in his career. “I won seven major stake races on him and we set three track records at three different tracks. Probably not the best horse I rode but he’s the one that stands out.”

When he retired from the saddle in 1991, Gunnar spent the next 10 years managing mutuel and teletheatre operations at Woodbine, followed by a stint on the Industry Appeal Board at the Ontario Racing Commission. For the last 15 years, he has been a Senior Race Official, primarily officiating Thoroughbred races at Fort Erie and Woodbine.

The question he is asked most frequently by fans is if the races are fixed. His answer is always an unequivocal “no.” Between Ontario’s exacting rules and regulations, a diligent team of Commission inspectors and the negligible amount of money that could actually be earned by fixing a race, it’s just not worth it to try. Besides, that’s why he is there. Watching. Beyond a Race Official’s responsibility as an employee of the regulator to monitor the race for any rule infractions, they must also watch for and “read” the race for anything that doesn’t look right. That is the most indefinable part of officiating – the ability to be able to see not just what is happening during a race, but being able to sense things before they actually happen – a skill that only comes after many years of experience.

However, the job of a Race Official extends well beyond in-race officiating . Post-race adjudicative duties such as holding reviews and attending appeal hearings, often means having to play different roles – including, some days, just being a good listener and providing a supportive shoulder — in different situations for different participants. That can be challenging. But the hardest part of the job is also the best.

When asked, there was no hesitation before he said “the people” are the best part of his job. Gunnar’s affection and respect for the horsepeople and his pride at being able to continue to make a difference – to the participants, the industry and the sport – clearly shines through when he talks about his career and the many roles he’s played through the years. “I love the people, I love the atmosphere. When racing is in your blood, it’s there forever.”