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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v M W White - Penalty Decision dated 4 September 2020 - Chair, Mr G R Jones

Created on 07 September 2020



IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A10335

BETWEEN Mr JOHN MUIRHEAD, Senior Stipendiary Steward for the Racing Integrity Unit


AND MR MATHEW WILLIAM WHITE, of Cambridge, Licensed Open Driver / Trainer


Judicial Committee: Mr G R Jones, Chairman

Date of Hearing: 3 September 2020

Present: Mr Muirhead and Mr Mulcay (Senior Stipendiary Stewards) for the Informant

Mr White, the Respondent

Date of Oral Decision: 3 September 2020

Date of Written Decision: 4 September 2020


The Charge

[1] This charge arises from the running of Race 10, the Oktoberfest, 3rd October Mobile Pace 2200m, run at the Waikato Bay of Plenty Harness meeting, at the Cambridge Raceway on 27 August 2020. An information (No A10335) was filed by Mr Muirhead after having been approved pursuant to Rule 1108(2) by the RIU General Manager, Mr M Godber. This charge was heard at Alexandra Park, Auckland on 3 September 2020.

The Information alleged a breach of Rule 869(2) and clause (b) of the Use of Whip Regulations, in that Mr White, “used his whip on more occasions than is permitted driving CARSE O FERN TOM over the final 400 metres.”

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.

Rule 869(2)(a) provides: -

(2) No horseman shall during any race: -

(a) Use his whip in an unnecessary, excessive or improper manner.

The Plea

[3] At the commencement of the hearing Mr White indicated that he admitted the charge and acknowledged that he understood the nature of the Rule. Thus, the charge was deemed proved.


[4] Using available race films Mr Mulcay identified CARSE O FERN TOM (M White) who was challenging for the lead rounding the bend into the home straight.

[5] Mr Mulcay said that between the straight entrance and the winning post, this being the concluding 400 metres of the race, Mr White used his whip on 14 occasions.

[6] Mr Muirhead said that the force used was moderate and there was a pause in the frequency of strikes. Mr Muirhead added that CARSE O FERN TOM won the race by a head. He noted that the whip use was not a factor in winning the race as CARSE O FERN TOM maintained the lead for the entire length of the straight.

[7] In response Mr White submitted that he agreed with the number of strikes and had nothing further to add.

Penalty Submissions

[8] Mr Muirhead submitted that Mr White had an excellent record, with no previous breaches of the whip rule. He said that at 14 strikes, the breach was within the mid-range band of the Use of Whip Regulations.

[9] Mr Muirhead added that it was clear Mr White miscounted the number of strikes he may not have been concentrating on counting due to this being his first success as Trainer/Driver. When asked by the Committee whether a penalty uplift should be considered given that Mr White won the race, Mr Muirhead was adamant that the breach was not a factor in winning the race. He said that the strikes were of an encouraging nature, albeit outside the permitted number.

[10] Mr Muirhead submitted that an appropriate penalty should be a fine of $300 which is in conformity with the JCA Penalty Guide relating to the Use of the Whip Regulations. He also said that credit for his very good record should outweigh any consideration of an uplift for winning the race.

[11] Mr White submitted that he would prefer a fine rather than a suspension. When asked by the Committee whether the breach may have had an impact on his horse winning, he said that he did not believe it was an issue.

Reasons for Penalty

[12] The JCA Penalty Guide for a 1st breach of this Rule establishes starting points, on a graduated scale, based on the number of strikes. The recommended starting point for between 14 and 16 strikes is a $300 fine. The number of strikes at 14 is not in dispute and therefore a $300 starting point was adopted.

(13] The video footage of the concluding 400 metres of the race makes it clear that Mr White used his whip 14 times, with moderate force. 

[14] It is a fact that CARSE O FERN TOM won the race by a short margin and on that basis the Committee probed what impact, if any, the excessive whip use may have had on the horse winning. More importantly, whether or not it be deemed as an aggravating factor for the purpose of applying a penalty uplift.

[15] Based on the submissions on this point from both the Informant and Respondent, the Committee is satisfied that the excess number of strikes, above what is permitted by the Regulations, was not a determinative factor in the win.

[16] Accordingly, after taking all factors into account, the Committee saw no need to depart from the recommended staring point of a $300 fine.


[17] Mr White was fined the sum of $300.

G R Jones


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