Learn About Being a Racing Steward
Get Career Info on Duties, Salary, Requirements, and More
Racing stewards oversee horse racing events to ensure that all rules and regulations are followed by participants.
Racing stewards oversee race meetings and enforce the rules of racing that are applicable in their home jurisdiction (rules of racing vary from state to state). They are tasked with investigating possible infractions, conducting hearings, and taking disciplinary action upon those found guilty of violations (such as issuing fines or suspensions).
During live racing, stewards must be present in the steward’s stand where they watch the race and evaluate video replays to ensure that the event was run fairly and that the order of finish was correct. They must deal with objections by trainers and jockeys, either dismiss the claims of foul or disqualifying offending parties. They also may inspect the paddock area, stabling area, and jockey’s room during the course of the day.
On race days, stewards tend to work split shifts: several morning hours, then a break, followed by a full card of racing in the afternoon. Much of the administrative work (monitoring entries, noting scratches or other changes, conducting hearings) is completed during the morning before the race day duties begin. Administrative tasks may also include reviewing and approving licenses for trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, and other track personnel.
Racing stewards interact regularly with racing professionals, track management, industry representatives, and members of the public. They also work closely with veterinarians to ensure that body fluid samples are taken and sent for testing to detect any illegal substances.
Racing stewards may specialize by working in Thoroughbred flat racing, steeplechase racing, stock horse racing, or Standardbred racing (stewards are referred to as judges in Standardbred racing).
Education & Training
The Racing Officials Accreditation Program (ROAP) for Stewards, Judges, and Officials is sponsored by the University of Louisville and the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. The 60-hour ROAP course is a week-long event with tuition of approximately $500 (lodging not included). Students may take either the Flat or Harness racing course. Coursework includes information on the responsibilities of racing officials, horse racing terminology, medication, and legal issues. On the final day of the course, students must successfully pass a 30-minute oral exam, 4-hour written exam, and 2-hour race video exam.
After completing and passing the ROAP accreditation exams, the student must gain at least 225 days experience as a racing official plus 50 days as a steward in order to become fully accredited as a racing steward. Most students seek a paid apprenticeship at a racetrack for the first 6 to 8 weeks of this necessary experience and then seek more permanent employment to finish the experiential requirement. Once accredited, all racing officials must complete at least 16 documented hours of approved continuing education every two years to maintain their credentials.
Most racing stewards start on their career path as a horse racing official in another area (racing secretary, paddock judge, or another position involving interpretation of the rules of racing) before moving to a steward role. Some stewards also advance to their position after gaining significant experience through direct participation in the industry as a trainer, jockey, or owner.
The salary of a racing steward can vary widely based upon many factors including the number of days and hours worked per race meeting, the length of the race meeting as a whole, the size and location of the track, and the level of experience and responsibility an individual steward has within their organization. As with most positions, senior stewards can expect to earn top dollar, while less experienced stewards will generally work their way up the pay scale. Some stewards rotate between two or more tracks during the year to maintain a full schedule.
Stewards working a fairly regular yearly schedule can generally expect to earn salaries in the $40,000 to $50,000 range. For example, in 2011 public records indicated that racing stewards in Washington State earned salaries ranging from $38,357 to $42,464. Stewards that work shorter race meets or participate on a part-time basis could expect to receive smaller salaries.
The number of jobs available for racing stewards should remain fairly steady for the foreseeable future, as the total number of tracks in operation is not expected to show significant growth or decline. Job turnover is to be expected as some racing stewards reach retirement age or choose to pursue other related roles in the horse racing industry. Applicants with ROAP certification or significant practical experience in the field can expect to have the best prospects when seeking employment opportunities.