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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v J Bridge - Written Reserved Decision dated 1 April 2019 - Chair, Mr P Williams

Created on 02 April 2019

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE

JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY

UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Rules

BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT

Informant

AND JAMES BRIDGE

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr Paul Williams (Chairman)

Mrs Nicki Moffatt (Member)

Parties: Mr Simon Irving - for the RIU

Mr James Bridge - as the Respondent

Date of Hearing: 28 March 2019

Date of Decision: 1 April 2019

WRITTEN RESERVED DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

BACKGROUND

1] Mr Bridge, a class A Trainer, has been charged with a breach of Rule 404(2) of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing in that :-

On the 17th April 2018 at Foxton, James Bridge was the trainer and person responsible for the nomination and presentation of the unnamed 3yo gelding Zacinto – Puzzled to compete in Heat 13 of the Foxton Racing Club trials when he had nominated the horse as Zacinto - Mystify.

2] Rule 404(2) states:-

A person shall not enter, accept, start or intend to start a horse in a Race or trial (including a jump-out or test for certification purposes) under a name other than its registered name or its recorded breeding details in the case of an unnamed horse that is entered for or starts in a trial

3] The relevant Penalty provisions are contained in Rules 803(1) which state:-

A person who, or body or other entity which, commits or is deemed to have committed a breach of these Rules or any of them for which a penalty is not provided elsewhere in these Rules shall be liable to:

(a) be disqualified for a period not exceeding 12 months; and/or

(b) be suspended from holding or obtaining a licence for a period not exceeding 12 months. If a licence is renewed during a term of suspension, then the suspension shall continue to apply to the renewed Licence; and/or

(c) a fine not exceeding $20,000.

6] Within the documents provided to the Committee and Mr Bridge was a copy of the signed authority from the General Manager of the Racing Integrity Unit, Mr M Godber, dated 12 February 2019 authorising the lodging of the Information A12272 pursuant to Rule 903(2)(d).

7] Initial agreement was reached between the parties that the matter would be heard on the papers and a teleconference was arranged for 8 March 2019 to obtain additional information from the parties to enable a penalty decision to be made by the Committee. Unfortunately Mr Bridge was unable to be contacted and another teleconference was then scheduled for 22 March 2019 but again there were difficulties contacting Mr Bridge. It was then decided that a hearing would take place before racing at Waipukurau on 28 March 2019.

SUMMARY OF FACTS BY THE INFORMANT AND FOLLOW UP DISCUSSIONS

8] The respondent James Bridge is a licensed Class A trainer under the Rules of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing. He has been a licensed trainer for approximately nine years.

9] The respondent purchased a Zacinto - Puzzled colt from the 2016 South Island yearling sales, the vendor being Inglewood Stud, North Canterbury. Inglewood Stud also bred a Zacinto - Mystify colt the same year (2014). Mystify is the dam of Puzzled.

10] Mr Bridge entered his Zacinto - Puzzled 3yo gelding the day before the trials at Foxton on 17 April 2018 and mistakenly entered it as Zacinto - Mystify. The phone call he made to the NZTR Bureau was recorded. (A transcript has been provided to the Committee and Mr Bridge). An interim stable return was completed by the Bureau so that the nomination of the Zacinto – Mystify gelding could be accepted. Mr Bridge took his horse to the Foxton trials on 17 April.

11] The RIU Steward checking brands that day did not identify the discrepancy - both horses branded 'HS' with the right shoulder numbers differing 6/4 (Mystify) and 1/4 (Puzzled). The horse ran in Heat 13 of the trial.

12] The error was identified when the respondent was selling the horse through a bloodstock agent. Once it was realised that the horse had trialled the original sale fell through. The potential purchaser, through the bloodstock agent, made a complaint to NZTR. The horse has since been sold to Macau.

13] The respondent was spoken to about the incident on 04 February 2019. He stated that when he nominated the horse over the phone he was driving, did not have the breeding papers in front of him and got confused as he knew the gelding had ‘Mystify’ in its breeding.

14] The respondent has one previous charge for presenting the wrong horse in 2015.

15] To questions from the Committee Mr Irving explained the process for checking brands at a trials meeting and said that there was a visual check only of each horse’s brands and a microchip check was only carried out if the brands were not easily identifiable. He could not confirm if the Steward on duty that day had actually checked the brands or did check the brands but did not notice the discrepancy from the brand sheet he was using as a check sheet.

16] Mr Irving also explained that later in 2018 NZTR received a letter from the purchaser of the horse who advised that during the purchasing process a discrepancy in the brands of the horse had been identified. He said the matter was referred to the RIU on 3 December 2018 for investigation. and approval to charge Mr Bridge was received on 12 February 2019.

17] Mr Irving was asked why the Chief Stipendiary Steward - Mr Oatham – was shown as the Informant on the Information. He said it was Mr Oatham’s decision that Mr Bridge be charged with a breach of the Rule as he breached the same Rule in October 2015.

SUBMISSIONS BY THE RESPONDENT AND FOLLOW UP DISCUSSIONS

18] Mr Bridge confirmed he agreed with the RIU’s Summary of Facts. In answer to questions from the Committee he said he was leading the horse around immediately prior to it racing at the trials and said he believed it was “visibly checked” by the Steward. He said it was only when he was approached by a bloodstock agent wanting to buy the horse towards the end of 2018 that he realised that the information provided to the Bureau on 16 April 2018 was incorrect. He said he then contacted the Bureau and told them what had happened but did not hear anything further until spoken to by Mr Irving in early February 2019. he confirmed that, despite the identification issue, the horse had been sold to an overseas buyer. He added he now had better checking processes in place when horses arrived at his property.

DECISION

18] As Mr Bridge has admitted the breach the charge is found to be proved.

SUMMARY OF SUBMISSIONS ON PENALTY BY THE INFORMANT

19] Mr Bridge is 36 years old, a Class A Licensed Trainer and has held a trainer’s license of nine years.

20] He has admitted a breach of the rules in relation to a charge of entering the wrong horse into the Foxton trials.

21] Mr Bridge has not disputed the RIU’s Summary of Facts and details of the penalties which may be imposed have been provided to the Committee and Mr Bridge. The standard penalty for this type of offence in the Thoroughbred Code is a $400-$500 fine from an $800 starting point. However, as an aggravating factor this is Mr Bridge’s second offence, the first being in October 2015 at a trial meeting which resulted in him being fined $500.

22] Four other previous cases within the Thoroughbred Code since 2013 have resulted in fines being imposed from between $400 and $500.

23] Mitigating factors are that when entering the horse for the trials Mr Bridge provided details of the grand dam instead of the dam and because there was a corresponding entry held by NZTR the error was not detected at the point of nomination. There was no intent to deceive by Mr Bridge and he did notify NZTR to correct the error as soon as he realised his mistake. Mr Bridge has accepted responsibility for his actions and has been totally cooperative throughout the investigation admitting the charge at the first opportunity. The race meeting was a trial and not a totalisator meeting and the potential sale of the horse did “fall through” although not solely due to this error.

24] The RIU submits that a fine is appropriate given the factors and circumstances as detailed.

SUBMISSIONS ON PENALTY BY THE RESPONDENT

25] Mr Bridge said there was no intent on his part to deceive and he had contacted NZTR as soon as he realised his mistake when talking to the Bureau the day before the trials.

REASONS FOR DECISION

26] The Committee notes Mr Bridge previously breached this Rule in late October 2015 and was fined $500, although the facts of that case are different from the matter before us today. After consideration, we do not consider that an aggravating factor, notwithstanding that since then he has only had a very small number of horses in his stable.

27] The Committee is satisfied there was no intent to deceive on the part of Mr Bridge and that the error only came to light when enquiries were made of Mr Bridge about the selling the horse. We also note that, notwithstanding the identification issue the horse was sold to an overseas buyer.

28] The Committee has reviewed the decisions in the previous breaches referred to in Mr Irving’s Penalty Submissions.

29] The JCA Penalty Guide states the starting point for a breach of this Rule is a fine of $800. There are no aggravating factors to justify an increase in this figure, but we are prepared to reduce it by 25% or $200 in recognition of the mitigation factors detailed above.

DECISION

30] Mr Bridge is fined $600.

COSTS

31] The RIU are not seeking any costs. While there have been some costs incurred by the JCA there will be no costs awarded in its favour.

Paul Williams     Nicki Moffatt

Chairman          Committee Member

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