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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v G Smith - Penalty Decision dated 13 May 2018 - Chair, Mr S Ching

Created on 17 May 2018

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A10183

BETWEEN SHANE RENAULT

Stipendiary Steward for the Racing Integrity Unit

Informant

AND GAVIN SMITH of Kaiapoi, Licensed Open Horseman

Respondent

Date of Hearing: 13 May 2018

Venue: Phar Lap Racecourse, Timaru

Judicial Committee: S Ching (Chair)

D Anderson (Committee Member)

Present: S Renault, the Informant

G Smith, the Respondent

Date of Decision: 13 May 2018

PENALTY DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

The Charge

[1] Information No.A10183 alleges that:

G Smith as the driver of BRONX VILLAGE used his whip to strike another runner namely REVERSE PSYCHLOGY, near the 200 metres.

The Rules

[2] Rule 869(2) reads as follows;

869 (2) No horseman shall during any race use a whip in a manner in contravention of the Use of the Whip Regulations made by the Board.

Use of the Whip Regulation (g) reads as follows;

(g) No horseman shall use their whip in such a way that it baulks, inconveniences, impedes or strikes another horse or horseman.

The Plea

[3] Mr Smith had signed the Information that the breach was admitted. Mr Smith confirmed this at the hearing. He also confirmed he understood the rule he was being charged with.

Summary of Facts

[4] On 9 May 2018 at the North Canterbury TOA trials meeting at Rangiora Racecourse, Open Horseman, Mr G Smith was the trainer and driver of BRONX VILLAGE in Race 12, a Non-winners Pace trial and was placed 3rd in the event. Mr Smith was also the trainer of REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY, who was driven by Ms S Diamant, and was placed 2nd in the same event.

[5] During the running and near the 200m, Mr Smith was observed to strike another runner, being REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY.

[6] This incident was observed by the officiating Stipendiary Steward, Mr S Renault and recorded by the oncourse cameras.

[7] Mr Renault made application pursuant to Rule 1103(4)(c) from the General Manager of the RIU, Mr M Godber, to lodge an information against Mr Smith for a breach of Rule 869(2)(g). This application was granted on 11 May 2018 and a letter was produced for the Judicial Committee.

[8] Mr Smith was subsequently charged with a breach of Rule 869(2) in that he used his whip to strike another runner near the 200m.

Informant’s Submissions

[9] Mr Renault showed side on video footage of the incident to the Committee which showed Mr Smith driving BRONX VILLAGE leading as the field turned for home with REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY, Mr Smith’s other runner in the race and driven by Ms S Diamant, in the trail. He said that REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY improved to Mr Smith’s outside and shortly afterwards Mr Smith drew his whip and struck REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY on one occasion.

[10] Mr Renault stated that this was a deliberate action by Mr Smith who looked to his outside, saw his other horse there, drew the whip and struck the horse. Mr Smith, on the day, stated to Mr Renault, that he didn’t think his driver was hitting the horse or urging it on enough over the concluding stages. Mr Renault submitted that this was a safety issue as Mr Smith could not know what reaction the horse would take after being struck on the inside. He also stated that the Stewards take a dim view of Mr Smith’s actions and believe they are totally unacceptable. Mr Renault in answer to a question from the Committee, stated that Ms Diamant had informed him that the whip had struck the horse on the backside. Mr Renault said that even though it was only one strike, the perception to the betting public, was poor.

Submissions of Respondent

[11] Mr Smith stated that it was a “moment of stupidity”. He said that he owned REVERSE PYSCHOLOGY, that he was a “bludger” and hadn’t been anywhere in the past year. Mr Smith said that as he owns REVERSE PYSCHOLOGY and as he had a paying clients horse in the race, he had decided to drive BRONX VILLAGE.

[12] Mr Smith said that he had told Ms Diamant that she would have to be tough on the horse, as he was a bludger. He said that he could see he was going well when he raced up beside him but straight away “knocked off”. Ms Diamant was only giving the horse little flicks, he said, and he had yelled to her to “get up him”. Mr Smith said Ms Diamant continued on with the little flicks and without thinking he reached around and struck the horse. He did not even think about it being a trials day and that it was a spur of the moment, a stupid thing to do. He also said that as soon as he had done it, could not believe how stupid he had been. He also said it was a bad look, a dumb thing to do, and still doesn’t know why he let it happen.

Submissions of Informant on Penalty

[13] Mr Renault for the RIU stated that Mr Smith had a clear record in relation to this part of the rule. He said that a breach of this particular rule where another horse is struck, was very uncommon and as such here were no precedents to assist with penalty. Mr Renault stated that the JCA Penalty Guide does not provide a starting point and only refers to penalty being “case by case on merits”.

[14] Mr Renault submitted that an appropriate penalty in this case is a combined suspension and fine. He stated that this was a deliberate act which should not be accepted, and an appropriate penalty should be one that will send a clear message to all industry participants that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated. Mr Renault submitted that a fine of $500 as well as a 3-day suspension be considered as penalty.

Respondent’s Submissions

[15] Mr Smith stated that a suspension as well as a fine was incredibly harsh for one strike at a trials meeting. He said that he was already suspended, for careless driving, from after the Addington meeting on Friday 18 May up to and including 27 May 2018. He said a suspension would be excessive especially as the first day of suspension would be the Harness Jewels day on 2 June.

Reasons for Penalty

[16] In determining penalty, we carefully considered all factors in regard to this breach. In mitigation, Mr Smith’s frank admission of the breach, his genuine remorse and his clear record in relation to this part of the rule, are factors to be taken into account.

[17] Mr Smith admitted to an act of stupidity and also conceded that it was not a good look for the industry. We agree with both points and determined that these were aggravating factors. We also agreed with Mr Renault who stated that there is a need to send a clear message to all industry participants that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.

[18] Mr Renault submitted that a $500 fine and a 3-day suspension be considered as penalty in this case. The JCA Penalty Guide does not provide a starting point for a breach of this rule but states that any penalty be on a “case by case on merits”. Charges under this section of the Whip Regulations with similar circumstances are so uncommon there are no historical precedents of penalty to assist us. After careful consideration this Committee determined that a combined penalty of a fine of $500 and a 3-day suspension would be disproportionate to the level of offending, especially in Mr Smith’s case where the first day of any suspension imposed would be the country’s premier meeting of the year, being the Harness Jewels meeting at Cambridge.

[19] Taking all factors into account we determined that a fine was an appropriate penalty in this case. The level of this fine we set at $750.

[20] Mr Smith is fined the sum of $750.

S Ching

CHAIR

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