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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v R P Liefting - Decision dated 14 December 2020 - Chair, Hon J W Gendall QC

Created on 14 December 2020

Before a Judicial Committee of the Judicial Control Authority for Racing

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing

BETWEEN THE RACING INTEGRITY UNIT

(Oscar Westerlund, Investigator)

Informant

AND RUDY PHILLIP LIEFTING

Licensed Class “A” Trainer

Respondent

Information Number: A 8486

Judicial Committee:

Hon J W Gendall QC (Chair)

Mr L N McCutcheon (Member)

HEARING HELD AT WELLINGTON (by consent) ON THE PAPERS

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

THE CHARGE

(1) The Informant charged Mr Liefting with a breach of Rule 404(2) of the NZ Rules of Racing in that on 12 November 2020 as

‘the trainer and person responsible for the nomination and presentation of the unnamed 2 year old filly (Turn Me Loose – Biscuit) to compete in Heat 7 at the trials meeting conducted by the Auckland Racing Club at Ellerslie, when upon inspection, it was found to be the incorrect filly, being a breach of clause 4 (a) of the Rules of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, and that [he] is therefore liable to the penalty or penalties that may be imposed pursuant to Rule 803 (1) of the said Rules”.

(2) Mr Liefting has admitted the charge and agreed that the Committee can deal with the matter on the papers without a formal oral hearing.

THE RULES

(3) Rule 404(2) provides that 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 of an unnamed horse that is entered for or starts in a trial.”

The penalty provision is contained in the general provisions in Rule 803(1), namely a maximum of disqualification for up to 12 months and/or suspension for such a period and/or a fine not exceeding $20,000.

THE FACTS

(4) Mr Liefting is the holder of a Class A Trainer’s Licence issued by the NZTR. On 12 November 2020, as person responsible, he nominated an unnamed 2 year old filly (Turn Me Loose -Biscuit) to compete in Heat 7 at the trials conducted by the Auckland Racing Club at Ellerslie. Stipendiary Stewards at the meeting had obtained the identification sheets of unnamed horses from the NZTR. The 2 year old filly “Turn Me Loose – Biscuit”, is recorded as having brands- Left Shoulder SR over V and Right Shoulder 3 over 8. The horse presented to race in the trial was not that filly. Its brands were Left Shoulder KB and Right Shoulder 2 over 8. And its breeding is Vadamos – Inzabeel. The horse was scratched from the trial.

(5) Subsequent enquiries determined that Mr Liefting had purchased both horses on behalf of owners in January 2020, and they were stabled at his premises until March 2020. Thereafter they were stabled at the owner’s property. Then, on 2 August, the owner delivered the Vadamos filly to Mr Liefting to commence full training. He thought that it was the Turn me Loose filly and told this to Mr Liefting. But it was in fact the Vadamos filly and it was that horse that was presented at the trial incorrectly said to be the Turn Me Loose filly. When spoken to Mr Liefting explained that he just took the word of the owner that the horse delivered and which he was training was the Turn Me Loose filly and was shocked over the mistake.

(6) Mr Liefting has been a prominent and experienced trainer for many years who derives his livelihood from training racehorses and has no breaches of this Rule in his long career.

PENALTY

(7) The Informant referred to general sentencing principles applicable namely punishment, deterrence, and the need to reflect the disapproval of the Code for the offending. In this case we consider that it is only the need to deter other trainers from making such mistakes that is truly applicable. The error naturally was not deliberate, and whilst a penalty obviously leads to some punishment, that is not the predominant function of imposing a sanction. It is to deter others, as well as the index offender. There is a crucial obligation on trainers to exercise extreme care in identifying the horses they train and nominate, and especially with unnamed horses. All trainers have to understand that a breach of this Rule, and the duty of care necessary, will carry with it some penalty.

(8) The Informant has referred the Committee to 4 earlier decisions, (between 2013 and 2019) in which three fines of $500, and one fine of $450, were imposed. He referred to the mitigating factors that Mr Liefting had been fully cooperative, (although any defence would have been futile), had no previous breaches of the Rule, and that the meeting was for trials only (as one would expect with unnamed horses) so no actual harm to others occurred.

(9) In fixing a proportionate penalty we take into account those mitigating factors, the long time Mr Liefting has been a respected trainer, and the fact that Mr Liefting was to some extent sent down the wrong path by what he was told by the owner. On the other hand, he had purchased both fillies and ought to have noticed that the Turn Me Loose filly had only a white star marking on its head, whereas the Vadamos filly had different and more prominent white markings on its head – and of course they had different brandings. But we can understand how he made the error that occurred.

(10) We consider that a fine of $400 is appropriate, so as to provide the required deterrence to other trainers to exercise extreme care. There is no order for costs either to the RIU or JCA.

Dated at Wellington on 14 December 2020

Hon J W Gendall QC (Chair)

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