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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v W Pinn - Decision dated 21 January 2021 - Chair, Mr G Jones

Created on 21 January 2021

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF

THE JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY

UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003

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

BETWEEN Mr M Williamson of the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU)

Informant

AND Mr W Pinn (Class B Apprentice Jockey)

Respondent

Information: A13393

Judicial Committee: Mr G Jones (Chairman)

Present: Mr M Williamson, Mr Pinn, Mr N Harris (Northern Riding Mentor)

Date of Oral Decision: 20 January 2021

Date of Written Decision: 21 January 2021

DECISION OF THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

The Charge

[1] This charge arises from the running of race 5, the Bethlehem Motor Inn 2100 at Tauranga Racing on 2 January 2021. Senior Stipendiary Steward, Mr M Williamson filed an Information alleging that Class B Apprentice Jockey, W Pinn (“the Respondent”) breached Rule 636(1)(b) when riding HAIL DAMAGE in that he failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race to give HAIL DAMAGE full opportunity to win or to obtain the best possible finishing place.

[2] In accordance with Rule 9032(d) authority to was given by the RIU General Manager, Mr Godber for this charge to be dealt with on a Non-Raceday.

[3] The particulars of the charge are that:

Mr Pinn failed to allow HAIL DAMAGE to improve into a run to between ALAMODE and EXTORTION from near the 200 metres for at least 15 strides (or approximately 125 metres) where there was clear racing room and it was reasonable and permissible for you to do so.

[4] Information Number A13393 which sets out the particulars of the charge was served on the Mr Pinn, at the Whangarei RC on Thursday 7th January 2021.

The Rule

[5] Rule 636(1)(b) provides that:

A person: (b) being the Rider of a horse in a Race, must take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout the Race to ensure that his horse is given full opportunity to win the Race or to obtain the best possible finishing place.

The Hearing and Plea

[6] This charge was heard on Wednesday 20 January 2021 at the Te Rapa racecourse prior to the commencement of the Waikato RC meeting.

[7] Mr Pinn appeared at the hearing in person and was supported by the Northern Rider Mentor, Mr N Harris.

[8] When the Information was served on Mr Pinn on 7 January 2021, he indicated that he did not admit the breach, however he later advised Mr Williamson (the Informant) that it was his intention to enter a guilty plea on the day of the hearing.

[9] At the commencement of the hearing Mr Pinn confirmed that he understood the nature of the charge and his admission of the breach.

[10] As Mr Pinn admitted the breach, pursuant to Rule 915(1)(d), the charge is deemed to be proved.

Informant’s Submissions (Salient points)

Background Information

In his written submissions Mr Williamson provided the following background information:

[11] Mr Pinn is licensed by New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing as an Apprentice Jockey (Class B) for the current racing season.

[12] On Saturday 2nd January 2021 at Racing Tauranga, Mr Pinn was the rider of HAIL DAMAGE entered in Race 5, a 2100 metre event. HAIL DAMAGE, the second favourite (SP: $5.50) finished in seventh placing.

[13] HAIL DAMAGE underwent a veterinary examination following the race and no abnormalities were found.

[14] Following the Race, Stipendiary Stewards launched an investigation into the manner in which HAIL DAMAGE had been ridden, which led to the filing of this charge [(Information A13393) alleging a breach of Rule [636(1)(b)].

The Race Films

[15] Mr Williamson supported his written submissions by use of the available Race films from which he provided oral commentary. He identified the horses relevant to the charge, namely HAIL DAMAGE (W Pinn), ALAMODE (T Harris) and EXTORTION (S Collett).

[16] Into the home straight, Mr Williamson said HAIL DAMAGE was trailing ALAMODE with EXTORTION on its outer. He pointed out that HAIL DAMAGE was held up for a run behind ALAMODE who was hanging and racing ungenerously. He said that near the 200 metre mark a gap appeared which was sufficient for HAIL DAMAGE to improve into. He stressed that the gap was wide and Mr Pinn’s vision was not impaired. He said that Mr Pinn sat on his horse and made no effort to take the gap.

[17] Mr Williamson produced the Raceday Stewards Report for Race 5 which highlighted the racing manners of ALAMODE, specifically the report stated:

“ALAMONDE (T Harris) hung outwards throughout the race proving difficult to ride in the final straight and was not persevered with from the 150 metres”.

[18] Mr Williamson also pointed out that MISS FENDT (T Thornton) was in front of HAIL DAMAGE and he submitted that even if Mr Pinn had taken the gap which was available to him, he may have been held up for a run by MISS FENDT.

[19] Mr Williamson said that Mr Pinn eventually shifted down onto the rails and finished the race off strongly.

Summary of breach

[20] Mr Williamson submitted that Mr Pinn’s ride aboard HAIL DAMAGE fell below the standard expected of any Licensed Rider. He added that Mr Pinn has failed is his obligation as a Licensed Jockey when riding HAIL DAMAGE because he failed to take an opportunity that was available to him that was both reasonable and permissible.

[21] He pointed out that from near the 200-metres to near the 75-metres Mr Pinn failed to allow HAIL DAMAGE to improve into a run to between ALAMODE and EXTORTION for at least 15 strides (or approximately 125 metres) where there was clear racing room and it was reasonable and permissible to do so.

[22] Mr Pinn had a distinct opportunity to improve the position of the 2nd favourite HAIL DAMAGE between the 200 metres and the 75 metres when the mare appeared to be travelling well.

[23] The breach occurred in full view of an international wagering audience.

[24] In summing up case for the Informant Mr Williamson concluded that Mr Pinn failed to take actions that were both reasonable and permissible in the circumstance and fell below what should be expected from any rider in a similar situation. Mr Pinn has failed in his obligation and HAIL DAMAGE has not had been given the full opportunity to obtain the best possible placing.

The Respondent’s Submissions (Salient points)

[25] Using the available Race films Mr Pinn submitted that he was held up for a run at the 400-metre mark and as a consequence “had nowhere to go”. He said that Mr T Harris’ mount (ALAMODE) was laying out and he was reluctant to take the gap between ALAMODE and EXTORTION due to ALAMODE’S racing manners.

[26] Mr Pinn said that when a gap did eventually emerge, he took it but the race was all but over.

[27] Mr N Harris submitted that he agreed with the Stewards assessment in part, but there were a number of extenuating circumstances in Mr Pinn’s favour. Drawing on his considerable race riding experience, Mr Harris used the race films to demonstrate his submission. He opined:

• That from barrier 2 Mr Pinn rode forward and put his mount into the race in 4th spot.
• That ALAMODE was hanging badly and racing erratically – on and off the rail.
• That Mr Pinn shifted out in the straight looking for a run, but he was influenced by ALAMODE’S manners.
• That he coaches all his Apprentice Riders, for safety reasons, not to take risk when going for a gap.
• That Mr Pinn simply chose not to go forward into the gap unless it is safe to do so and the breach was no more than an error of judgement.

[28] Mr Harris concluded his submission by advising that Mr Pinn has only been back riding for 2 months after an absence of more than a year. He said that he has ridden 16 winners since his return.

RIU Penalty Submissions

Mr Williamson submitted that:

[29] The Rule is in place to protect the betting fraternity and the general public. Breaches of the Rule involve more than a mere error of judgement but rather an error that is unreasonable and impermissible in the circumstances. In this case, poor judgement or negligence was not what one would expect from a rider of Mr Pinn’s ability.

[30] The Rule is about perception and appearance and a rider is obliged to do whatever can reasonably be done in all circumstances. Mr Pinn’s ride on HAIL DAMAGE was left “open for query”.

[31] Those who invest on racehorses need to do so with the comfort and reassurance that the horses they support are given every possible chance of performing to their abilities. Anything that falls short of this standard has the real potential to seriously harm the Industry and affect the confidence of those investing on the outcome of races.

[32] Public confidence has potentially been eroded as a consequence of Mr Pinn’s ride on HAIL DAMAGE.

In terms of penalty Stewards submit that:

[33] Mr Pinn must be penalised for his actions in order to protect and maintain the Standards set by Racing Authorities concerning public and industry confidence.

[34] Mr Pinn has had 441 race rides which have resulted in 49 wins with no previous breaches of this Rule [r 636(1)(b)].

[35] Mr Pinn has admitted the breach and he has incurred no breaches of any Rule since his return to riding on 14 November 2020.

[36] Mr Pinn was spoken to by Stewards on 5 December 2020 at Ellerslie concerning his ride on ROYAL PERFORMER in Race 1. Mr Pinn on that occasion was reluctant to take a gap for safety reasons and was spoken to advisedly and this may have been in the back of Mr Pinn’s mind and influenced his judgement on this occasion.

[37] Mr Pinn is in the early stages of his career and is still in the learning process. The penalty imposed should be a deterrent, but not so harsh as be detrimental to advancing the career of a Rider with a bright future.

Precedent Cases

[38] Mr Williamson submitted the following precedent cases for the consideration of the Committee.

RIU v Leighton (2013) – this related to a breach of the Rule by Apprentice Rider E Leighton who relaxed her mount for 5 strides close to the finish and was beaten a head, and head for second placing. Ms Leighton was suspended for 9 (Northern) days.

RIU v Morgan (2014) – this related to a breach by Apprentice Rider A Morgan who it was said she rode with no apparent vigour from the 1000 - 600 metres and finished 6th of 8 horses, 12.4 lengths from the winner. Ms Morgan was suspended for 5 days.

Conclusion

[39] Mr Williamson concluded his submission by highlighting the fact that penalties imposed on Apprentice Riders under this Rule have generally resulted in 5-day to 9-day Suspension(s).

[40] In this case, Stipendiary Stewards submit that a suspension of 2 to 3 weeks would be appropriate.

Respondent’s Penalty Submissions

[41] Mr Pinn submitted that he would accept whatever penalty is imposed. He said that every day when he comes to the races to ride, safety of himself and others is paramount.

[42] Mr Pinn sought a 10-day deferment to any proposed penalty.

[43] Mr Harris submitted that although Mr Pinn freely admitted the charge, it was one that due to its circumstances, could have been defended. He added that Mr Pinn is a talented Rider who has a great future. On Mr Pinn’s behalf he sought some leniency.

Reasons for Decision

[44] In determination of an appropriate penalty full consideration was given to all of the pertinent facts including the Race films as well as the submissions lodged by the Informant and Respondent.

[45] The Committee’s decision-making framework was guided by the JCA Penalty Guide (2018) and precedent cases. Due regard was also had for the Respondent’s culpability and his personal circumstances.

[46] The JCA Guide provides a 6-week suspension as the starting point for a breach of this Rule. For parity and consistency, the Guide does allow for some discretion and flexibility to shift upward or downward from the starting point where mitigating or aggravating circumstances exist.

[47] The 6-week starting point reflects the fact that offending of this nature is fundamental to the integrity of horse racing. Where the public are denied a fair run for their money, whether that be actual or potential, it is inevitable that the integrity of the Industry as a whole will come into question. In that regard rule 920(2)(d) is of particular relevance in deciding on penalty. This rule provides that:

“(2) On finding a breach proved the Judicial Committee may impose any penalty provided by these Rules. In imposing a penalty provided in these Rules the Judicial Committee may have regard to such matters as it considers appropriate including:

(d) the need to maintain integrity and public confidence in racing”.

[48] Charges alleging a breach of this Rule are rare. In fact, this is the first charge of its type filed in 2 years and between 2010 and 2019 there were only 17 charges filed in total. The penalties imposed for those cases have varied, ranging from, at the lower end of the continuum, a 3-day suspension and $150 fine (C Lunn, 14.01.12 at Greymouth), up to the top end of the band where two 5-week suspensions have been imposed, (D Bradley, 20.10.12, at Wanganui) and (R Goldsbury, 14.12.19, at Manawatu).

[49] Within the band the majority of precedent penalties have been between 2 and 4 weeks with the Lunn, Bradley and Goldsbury penalties being outliers.

[50] The precedent cases highlighted by Mr Williamson confirm that Apprentice Riders tend to receive lesser penalties for breaches of this Rule, due no doubt to their inexperience for which considerable discounts have been applied from the 6-week starting point.

[51] It is clear that penalties imposed in all recent New Zealand cases have been fact dependent and not surprisingly each case has its own unique circumstances and characteristics. This case is no exception.

[52] In Australian racing jurisdictions breaches of the equivalent of this rule (AR 129 (2)) are more common and the leading authority for consideration of penalty is the Appeal decision of Munce (5 June 2013). This case is regularly cited, and more recently it was quoted in two high profile appeal decisions, namely J McDonald (26 June 2020) and H Bowman (24 September 2020). In McDonald it was said by the Appellant Judge that:

This rule was considered in the Appeal of Munce (5 June 2013), where the then Principal Member Mr TEF Hughes QC gave guidance as to both the interpretation of the rule, and the matters relevant to consideration when a rider is alleged to have breached it:

“The task of administering this rule is not always easy. One must keep in mind that on its true interpretation it is not designed to punish a jockey unless on the whole of the evidence in the case the tribunal considering a charge under the rule is comfortably satisfied that the person charged was guilty of conduct that, in all the relevant circumstances, fell below the level of objective judgment reasonably to be expected of a jockey in the position of the person charged in relation to the particular race. The relevant circumstances in such a case may be numerous. They include the seniority and experience of the person charged. They include the competitive pressure under which a person charged was riding in the particular race. They include any practical necessity for the person charged to make a sudden decision between alternative causes of action. The rule is not designed to punish jockeys who make errors of judgment unless those errors are culpable by reference to the criteria that I have described.”

[53] Analysis of the Race films, when viewed objectively, provides clear evidence that at the crucial stage of the race there was of a lack of vigour on Mr Pinn’s part. However, when the mitigating factors highlighted by both Mr Williamson and Mr Harris are collectively taken into account, they tend to provide a plausible explanation for Mr Pinn’s lack of vigour and his lapse of judgement. These factors go, to some considerable extent, to lessening Mr Pinn’s culpability in that they accompany and explain his reluctance to take the gaps that were available to him in the home straight.

[54] Mr Harris identified that he instructs Apprentice Riders under his tutelage that they should not take gaps where there is risk involved. Mr Pinn referred to his counselling for his ride at Ellerslie on 5 December 2020 (r1 ROYAL PERFOMER) as being in the back of his mind. Therefore, it is not for this Committee to necessarily criticise Mr Pinn’s mindset where safety is concerned other than point out the fine balance that exists between compliance and non-compliance of the Rule(s) in these circumstances. Furthermore, horse and rider safety are among the key principles and objectives for the Racing Industry Board (RIB) established pursuant to the Racing Industry Act 2020.

[55] Mr Pinn is a highly promising Apprentice Jockey. Since his return to race riding during November 2020 he has 151 rides for 17 wins. Further, since he commenced race riding in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons (prior to taking a break from racing) he rode 32 winners from a total of 290 mounts. But notwithstanding Mr Pinn’s obvious talent, he is still a very inexperienced Rider and his lack of experience, is thus a determinative factor.

[56] Therefore, as indicated above (at paragraphs 53 and 54) the Committee, has had due regard for the following mitigating factors: 

a. That the racing manners of ALAMODE was a contributing factor.

b. That Mr Pinn was spoken to advisedly by Stewards on 5 December 2020 at Ellerslie concerning his handling of ROYAL PERFORMER and this may have been at the forefront of his thinking when he made the decision not to take the gap that was available to him.

c. That Mr Pinn has admitted the breach and he has not previously breached this Rule.

d. That Mr Pinn is an inexperienced Apprentice jockey having had about 440 career race day rides.

e. That his is a case where the Mr Pinn has exercised an error of judgement as opposed to having any sinister intent.

f. That there were no betting irregularities.

[57] The are no aggravating factors requiring an uplift from the starting point.

[58] Taking into account the totality of the evidence and submissions the Committee determined a penalty, in the circumstances of this case, must be imposed that strikes an appropriate balance between (a) the seriousness of the breach; (b) maintenance of public confidence in racing; and (c) one that represents a true reflection the mitigating factors in Mr Pinn’s favour. Accordingly, Mr Pinn is afforded a significant reduction from the 6-week starting point.

Decision

[59] Pursuant to the NZTR Directive, (effective as of 9 December 2020) and Rule 1106(3)(b) Mr Pinn is granted a 10-day deferment. 

[60] Mr Pinn’s Licence to ride in races is suspended commencing, from after racing on 30 January 2021 until after racing on 17 February 2021. This equates to 9 national racedays (or put another way is 2 days less than 3 calendar weeks).

[61] No costs were sought from the RIU and this matter was heard on a raceday. On that basis we make no order for costs.

G R Jones

Committee: Chairman

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