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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v M J Williamson - Reserved Reasons for Penalty Decision dated 30 June 2020 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Created on 30 June 2020

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

AT CHRISTCHURCH

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A13182

BETWEEN N M YDGREN, Chief Stipendiary Steward (Harness Racing) for the Racing Integrity Unit

Informant

AND MATTHEW JOHN WILLIAMSON, of Oamaru, Licensed Open Driver

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr R G McKenzie (Chair)

Date of Hearing: 28 June 2020

Present: Mr N M Ydgren, the Informant

Mr M J Williamson, the Respondent

Date of Oral Decision: 28 June 2020

Date of Written Decision: 30 June 2020

RESERVED REASONS FOR PENALTY DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

The Charge

[1] Information No. A13182 alleges that Mr Williamson, as the driver of SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS in Race 8, Looking to Sell? Call Craig at Harcourts Handicap Pace, at the meeting of Invercargill Harness Racing Club held at Ascot Park Raceway, Invercargill, on the 27th day of June 2020, “used his whip on more occasions than is permitted [by the Use of the Whip Regulations]”.

The Rule

[2] Rule 869 provides: -

(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.

The Use of the Whip Regulations provides as follows:

(b) No horseman is permitted to use their whip in a striking motion on more than ten occasions inside the final 400 metres. This is inclusive of “backhanders” and the use applies to the horse, harness and/or sulky.

The Plea

[3] Mr Williamson indicated to the hearing that he admitted the breach.

Submissions

[4] Mr Ydgren showed a video replay of the final 400 metres of the race. He pointed out SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS, driven by Mr Williamson, racing in 6th position, and some distance from the leader, passing the 400 metres. Shortly thereafter, Mr Williamson managed to ease the horse off the markers and into the clear to chase the leaders.

[5] Mr Ydgren alleged that Mr Williamson had used his whip on 18 occasions from the 400 metres to the finishing line.

[6] The Committee noted that SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS won the race in the last stride, the official margin being a nose.

[7] Mr Williamson stated that he did not dispute the alleged count of 18 strikes. He did not wish to say anything in relation to the offence.

Penalty Submissions

[8] Mr Ydgren said that Mr Williamson had an “excellent record”. He could not recall having had to speak to him about his whip use. He submitted that an appropriate penalty would be a fine of $500 as per the Penalty Guide in the Use of the Whip Regulations.

[9] Mr Williamson accepted that a fine of $500 was a fair penalty.

Reasons for Penalty

[10] The number of strikes is in the range of 17+, for which the Penalty Guide in the regulations prescribes a fine of $500. It is of some concern that Mr Williamson’s vigorous drive may have assisted him in winning the race and this might have been taken as an aggravating factor.

[11] However, it cannot be overlooked, firstly, that the total stake for the race was only $8,930 and, secondly, Mr Williamson does have an exceptional record under the Rule, his most recent breach being a low-end breach of the Rule in December 2018. The whip use, on this occasion, was not in an uninterrupted manner and there were several breaks by Mr Williamson in his use of the whip.

[12] The Committee noted that Mr Williamson had 836 drives in the 2018/2019 season and in the current season, to date, he has had over 650 drives. It is likely that Mr Williamson has had in excess of 1,000 drives since he last breached the whip Rule.

[13] Taking all of those factors into account, the Committee saw no need to depart from the penalty regime of the regulation in this case.

Penalty

[14] Mr Williamson was fined the sum of $500.

R G McKENZIE

Chair

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