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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v C R Thornley - Reserved Penalty Reasons of Judicial Committee dated 11 February 2018 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Created on 14 February 2018




IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A09893

BETWEEN S P RENAULT, Stipendiary Steward for the Racing Integrity Unit


AND CHRISTOPHER ROBIN THORNLEY of Greenpark, Licensed Open Driver


Judicial Committee: R G McKenzie (Chair)

G J Clapp (Committee Member)

Present: S P Renault, the Informant

Date of Hearing: 11 February 2018

Date of Oral Decision: 11 February 2018



[1] Information No. A09893 has been filed by Stipendiary Steward, Mr S P Renault, against Licensed Open Driver, Mr C R Thornley, alleging that in Race 2, Norjo Motorcycles/Jemmetts Power Tools Mobile Pace, held at the meeting of Banks Peninsula Trotting Club at Motukarara on Sunday, 28 January 2018, Mr Thornley, as the driver of CAPITAL PLAN in the race, “drove carelessly near the 400 metres when striking the sulky wheel of TINTIN NATURALLY (M P Edmonds) which punctured”.

[2] Mr Renault produced a letter from Mr M R Godber, General Manager of the Racing Integrity Unit, pursuant to Rule 1108 (2), authorising the filing of the information.

[3] The information has been served on Mr Thornley. He has signed the Statement by the Respondent on the information form acknowledging service of the information and indicating that he admits the breach of the Rule. He further indicates that he does not wish to be present at the hearing of the information.

[4] The hearing of the information took place at the meeting of Hororata Trotting Club held at Methven on 11 February 2018. Mr Thornley was not present at the hearing.

The Rule

[5] Rule 869 provides as follows:

(3) No horseman in any race shall drive: -

(b) carelessly.

Submissions of Informant

Mr Renault showed video replays of the incident with approximately 400 metres to run, as the field approached the final turn. He pointed out TINTIN NATURALLY, driven by Mr Edmonds, racing outside the leader, with CAPITAL PLAN, driven by Mr Thornley, in the one-one position, trailing TINTIN NATURALLY. He then pointed out that Mr Thornley eased out from the one-one to improve 3-wide to the outside of that runner. Mr Edmonds could then be seen to look down and to his outside. Mr Renault alleged, it was at this point, that Mr Thornley’s runner had struck the sulky wheel of TINTIN NATURALLY, causing its tyre to deflate.

Mr Renault explained that the contact was not visible from either of the available video replays. Mr Edmonds had confirmed on the day that contact with his sulky wheel had been made at that point. Mr Thornley subsequently admitted that he had struck Mr Edmonds’ sulky wheel and had freely admitted the breach, Mr Renault said.

Mr Thornley had made an error of judgement, Mr Renault submitted.

Penalty Submissions of Informant

Mr Renault informed the Committee that Mr Thornley has had 47 drives in the current season to date and, last season, had a total of 53 drives. He has a clear record as far as any breach of the Rules is concerned.

He referred to the Penalty Guide starting point for striking a wheel of a $300 fine. It was an aggravating factor that Mr Edmonds’ runner, the favourite for the race, sustained a punctured tyre and its chances had been affected to some degree. It appeared to be travelling well before sustaining the puncture and dropping out of the race, Mr Renault said.

Mr Renault said Mr Thornley has a good record and has admitted the breach. Mr Thornley had explained to Stewards that the horse had rushed forward when he pulled it out. However, Stewards believed that he had misjudged the movement and had left himself insufficient room. Mr Thornley accepted that, Mr Renault said.

Mr Renault referred to a similar recent breach of the Rule (R T May at Rangiora on 7 January last) – careless driving striking a wheel. Mr May was fined $300 on that occasion and Mr Renault submitted that a similar penalty was appropriate in this case. Mr Thornley had asked Mr Renault to submit to the Committee on his behalf that $300 was too high a fine, Mr Renault said.

Reasons for Penalty

In arriving at penalty, the Committee took the starting point suggested in the Penalty Guide of a $300 fine. That starting point is appropriate for a mid-range breach of the Rule. The Committee assessed this breach as being above mid-range having regard to the fact that the interference to the race favourite, we believe, affected the chances of that runner. The interference was the result of a slight misjudgement on Mr Thornley’s part but the consequences were significant. We have, therefore, taken a starting point of a $400 fine.

Mitigating factors were Mr Thornley’s frank admission of the breach and his record, which was excellent in our view. For those factors, the Committee has given Mr Thornley a penalty discount of $100.


Mr Thornley is fined the sum of $300.

R G McKenzie


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