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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v P Court - Reserved Written Decision dated 20 January 2019 - Chair, Mr P Williams

Created on 25 January 2019

BEFORE THE JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY

UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003

AND IN THE MATTER of the Rules of Harness Racing New Zealand

BETWEEN

RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU) - Informant

AND

PAUL COURT - Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr Paul Williams and Mr Dave Anderson

Appearing: Mr Shane Renault, RIU, as the Informant

Venue: Waterlea Racecourse, Blenheim

Date of Hearing: Sunday 20 January 2019

Date of Decision: Sunday 20 January 2019

RESERVED WRITTEN DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

1] Mr Court is charged with a breach of Rule 411(2) and specifically that on Tuesday 4 December 2018 at a trials race meeting conducted by Mid Canterbury TOA in Race 6 he brought MONGOLIAN MARSHAL to the Ashburton Racecourse for the purpose of racing instead of MONGOLIAN CONQUEROR which had been accepted for Race 6, a 2yo Mobile Pace.

2] The relevant Rules are as follows:

411 (2) Where a horse has, or is deemed to have been accepted for a race at a particular racecourse no other horse shall be brought to the racecourse for the purpose of racing there as the first-mentioned horse.

411 (5) A breach of this Rule is declared a serious racing offence.

1001(2) Every person who commits a serious racing offence shall be liable to the following penalties:

(a) a fine not exceeding $30,000; and/or

(b) suspension from holding or obtaining a licence, for any specific period or for life; and/or

(c) disqualification for a specific period or for life

3] At the beginning of the hearing Mr Renault provided a written authority from Mr McIntyre, General Manager Stewards dated 21 December 2018 for the lodging of Information A10188 against Mr Court. The Information contained a signed statement from Mr Court that he did not wish to attend the hearing and also that he admitted the breach of Rule 411(2). As the breach of the Rule is admitted the charge is found proved.

SUBMISSIONS BY THE INFORMANT

4] Mr Renault provided a Summary of Facts for the Committee the key points of which are below.

5] Rule 105(1) of the Rules of Harness Racing New Zealand define a Trial as a trotting or pacing race, the programming of which is approved by HRNZ as a trial and TRIALS and TRIALS MEETING shall have a corresponding meaning.

6] On Tuesday the 4th of December, the Mid Canterbury TOA trials were held at Ashburton Raceway. The programme for the meeting showed that Race 6 on the day was a 2yo Mobile Pace to be run over 1609m.

7] Horse No.7 in that trial was shown to be MONGOLIAN CONQUEROR, a two-year-old bay colt by Art Major – Presidential Sweet. The horse was trained by Paul Court. The brand for the horse was listed as 16Z on the top line, and 4198 on the bottom line. The markings for the horse were listed as white both hind pasterns.

8] The horse was inspected by Peter Lamb prior to the race who identified that the brand on the horse’s neck did not match the brand that was shown on the Steward’s programme which is used to identify all the horses at the trials. The brand on the neck of the horse presented read 16Z on the top line, and 4005 on the bottom line. The markings on the horse in the stabling area were a white off fore pastern, near hind fetlock.

9] Mr Lamb immediately phoned Mr Renault and spoke to him regarding the issue of the brand on the horse differing from that listed for MONGOLIAN CONQUEROR. Mr Renault then inspected the horse in the stabling area and noted that it did not match that of MONGOLIAN CONQUEROR. He noted the brand on the horse’s neck and input that information onto the HRNZ website using his phone.

10] Mr Court was adamant that the horse in the stabling area was MONGOLIAN CONQUEROR. After further discussions he was told the horse would have to be scratched from the trial as a result of the anomaly.

11] After the trial meeting Mr Renault went to Mr Court’s property to take hair samples off both horses to send away to Massey University for DNA testing to confirm their identity. The results of the DNA samples were provided to HRNZ and confirmed that the horse MONGOLIAN CONQUEROR’s brand was 16Z – 4198, and MONGOLIAN MARSHAL’s brand was 16Z – 4005.

12] Mr Court advised Stewards that the horses had been bought from the 2018 NZ Premier Yearling Sales at Christchurch in February. The horses were broken in by Katie Cox before being sent to himself for the next preparation. Mr Court added that their identities had been mistaken from the outset.

13] Mr Court advised that when he had sent the trainer notification to HRNZ on 19 November he had taken the horses’ brands off the computer rather than off the horses’ necks. Had Mr Court taken the brands off the horses’ necks, this issue would have been identified by HRNZ when cross-referencing the brands of the horses when accepting the trainer notification.

14] The horse MONGOLIAN MARSHAL has started in one workout at Ashburton on the 27th of November under the name of MONGOLIAN CONQUEROR where it finished first. This result has since been rectified to show that MONGOLIAN MARSHAL won the workout heat.

SUBMISSIONS ON PENALTY BY THE INFORMANT

15] Mr Court has held a trainer’s licence in his own right for 5 seasons. He was licensed as a trainer in 2008. From 2009 – 2015, Mr Court was in partnership with his father Graham Court. Mr Court has been a trainer on his own since. Mr Court has been very cooperative throughout the proceeding and has conducted himself in a professional manner. Mr Court has accepted full responsibility for his actions.

16] MONGOLIAN MARSHAL was presented to race in a trial not a race day. The horse was able to be scratched prior to the trial and did not race. There is no suggestion that this was an intentional act by Mr Court to deceive any party. The failure to check the brand on the horse was a basic error, which should not have occurred.

17] MONGOLIAN MARSHAL has started in one trial under the name of MONGOLIAN CONQUEROR. The result of this has since been corrected.

18] Recent cases in relation to this are;

• RIU v Barron 2012 (Harness) – Fined $400
• RIU v Richardson 2012 (Thoroughbred) – Fined $500
• RIU v McQuade 2013 (Thoroughbred) – Fined $500
• RIU V Tiley 2013 (Thoroughbred) – Fined $450
• RIU v Hope & Hope (Harness) 2013 – Fined $500
• RIU v Bridge 2015 (Thoroughbred) – Fined $500

19] Stewards submit that a fine of $500 is appropriate.

REASONS FOR PENALTY

20] Mr Court in admitting the breach and choosing not to attend the nearing has acknowledged the accuracy of the Summary of Facts presented by the RIU.

21] The mitigating factors taken in consideration by the Committee are Mr Court’s admission of the breach and his previously clear record in relation to this Rule. We have also taken into account that the wrong horse was presented to race in a trial and not a totalisator race although it is assumed that, had the incident occurred prior to a totalisator race, the error would have been picked up by the RIU as it was at the trials meeting on 4 December 2018. We place no emphasis on the fact that MONGOLIAN MARSHAL has raced in a trial under the wrong name and note that the result of that trial has been corrected on the HRNZ database.

22] The Committee accepts this was an innocent mistake by Mr Court but one which would not have occurred had the brands on the two “Mongolians” been checked before sending in the required trainer notification information in Mid November 2018. Mr Court erred in simply re-stating the information off the HRNZ website and should have been more thorough when submitting the information.

23] The Committee notes the two previous similar breaches within the Code but they are somewhat dated with one having occurred in August 2012 and the other in November 2013.

24] The JCA Penalty Guidelines does not state a starting point penalty for a breach of Rule 411(2). As a possible future reference point, but recognising future Judicial Committees are not bound by our decision today we have decided the starting point for this mid-range breach is a fine of $600. From that point and in recognition of the mitigating factors detailed above we reduce that penalty by $100. On this occasion we do not believe there are any additional aggravating factors to further increase the penalty.

PENALTY

25] Mr Court is fined $500.

COSTS

26] The Racing Integrity Unit did not seek an order for costs. As the matter was heard on a race day notwithstanding the JCA has incurred additional costs in relation to this hearing there will be no such order for costs to the JCA.

Dated at Blenheim this 20th day of January 2019.

Paul Williams

Chairman

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