Becoming a Steward

If you like enforcing rules and conducting investigations, being a steward is for you. 

Stewards are much like referees, travelling to race meeting to make sure rules of racing are followed and investigating any possible infractions. In addition to that task, stewards also make sure the order of finish for races is correct, inspect stables and jockeys’ rooms and handle any complaints owners or trainers may have.

While there is no requirement to have practical knowledge of horses, former Racing NSW Deputy Chairman of Stewards Greg Rudolph recommends it. 

“You have to be dedicated and disciplined in your approach,” he explained. “I always found that practical experience with horses or growing up with horses is an advantage even if it is a farm or stud background. Desire is the practical element people need to have. You also have high integrity standards to uphold rules or racing an want to aspire to fairness in decision making. This is very much a lifestyle and you have to have a love of the animal and desire to see that racing is run fairly and cleanly.”

To be a steward, you must have good communication and teamwork skills because you will often be working in a team when at the races. Being able to communicate effectively is also of upmost importance because not only will you be talking to people often, but it will also be in tense situations such as during an inquiry or hearing. 

Another important trait for stewards is to be able to stay focused and calm in stressful situations when you are dealing with angry horsemen or even racegoers. You must also be able to objectively analyse any information brought to you and be able to recognize any wagering trends that could be suspicious. 

Qualifications to become a steward include a Certificate III in Racing Services (Cadet Steward) and/or Diploma of Racing Services (Steward). Many people becoming stewards also have some form of tertiary education, mainly related to equine management in addition to the practical experience that comes from working with horses in some form or another and being familiar with racing. 

“The formative years of cadetship are quite tough as they are paid an apprenticeship wage, starting out at $50,000 per year,” said Rudolph. “While that can be challenging, it is easier once you move up in rank. Once you move into the senior ranks, it becomes a package with a car and phone package as well as a six figure salary. The higher positions are well paid, but you have to work your way up the ladder.”

Another task stewards have is making sure legal equipment is used on horses and that it is declared. You may also be required to question trainers about their horses if the horses don’t run up to par to make sure a horse’s bad run wasn’t by design and rules are being followed to protect both horsemen and bettors.

Just like other careers in the horse racing industry, you must be willing to make the sport your lifestyle and not just a nine to five job. You may have to attend morning trials or evening race meets and be prepared to work weekends and long nights depending on your duties and the racing schedule. 

However, if you are willing to put in the effort, you may get the opportunity to not only travel to different states and tracks in Australia but also around the world. 

“You are really making a lifestyle choice as well as a career choice,” he said. “There are very good opportunities in a career in racing that can take you around the world. Working in racing and as a steward can open doors up to other jurisdictions, whether to Australian or overseas.”