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Auckland RC 10 January 2015 - R 9 (heard 20 January 2015 at Ellerslie)



638(1)(d)

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE AT AUCKLAND

In the matter of Information A6875

RACING INTEGRITY UNIT
J Oatham –Stipendiary Steward
Informant
AND
D Johnson – Class A Jockey
Respondent

 

DECISION OF NON RACEDAY HEARING dated 20th January 2015

 

INTRODUCTION

1. Ms Johnson was the rider of “Chipandchase”, in Race 9, at the Auckland Racing Club’s meeting held on 10th January 2015.

 

2. As a result of her riding actions Miss Johnson was charged with a breach of Rule 638(1)(c) of the Rules of Racing.

 

3. However, at the hearing, Mr Oatham made application to amend the information so as to reflect a breach of Rule 638(1)(d) namely the careless riding rule.

 

4. After hearing from Mr Oatham as to why such an application was being made, this Committee granted the Racing Integrity Unit leave to amend. Mr Oatham advised the hearing that the information was laid late on the day of racing. He said that Ms Johnson had requested time to take advice with regard to the charge and the hearing of the information was adjourned accordingly. He also advised that after the Stipendiary Stewards had reviewed the incident which gave rise to the charge that it was considered that the consequences to Ms Johnson, in the Stipendiary Stewards’ opinion, far outweighed the seriousness of the matter.

 

5. Rule 638(1)(d) reads as follows:

“638 (1) A rider shall not ride a horse in a manner which the Judicial Committee considers to be:

(d) Careless;

 

Ms Johnson advised the hearing that she admitted the charge of careless riding and it was therefore deemed to be proved.

 

ALLEGED FACTS

The information alleged that Ms Johnson rode her mount, “Chipandchase” in a careless manner between the 1600 and 1400 metres marks when applying undue inward pressure to “Sir Sunny” (M Sweeney), eventually forcing that runner inwards to a position adjacent to the running rail.

 

STIPENDIARY STEWARDS’ EVIDENCE

Video coverage of the incident which gave rise to the charge was shown to the hearing. “Chipandchase” drew Barrier position number 5 and was reasonably slow away. As a consequence, it was trapped out some 4 or 5 horse widths. Running inside of “Chipandchase” was “Sir Sunny” ridden by M Sweeney. “First Response” (drawn 1) and “Diamond Edge” (drawn 4) were also running in close proximity. Apprentice Jockey Hutton on “First Response” did not have an easy time rounding the bend just prior to the 1600 metres mark, and in the process appeared to have bumped Mr Sweeney’s mount out, on to Ms Johnson. At this point, Mr Sweeney was about 1 length behind “First Response”, but seemingly wishing to maintain his position one-off the rails, so as to avoid heels. Ms Johnson by then, was alongside of Mr Sweeney, and went approximately a neck ahead. She then turned the neck of her mount across the line of Mr Sweeney’s mount, and proceeded to dictate the line of “Sir Sunny” for approximately 150 -200 metres. Mr Sweeney was resisting this action as it was clear that he did not want to end up with a rails run, but that was what happened at the 1400 metres mark.

 

The video coverage showed that Mr Sweeney was at times quite unbalanced. His riding style changed quite markedly as the pressure was applied to him and at times the impression was given that he was close to being dislodged from the saddle.

 

MS JOHNSON’S RESPONSE

Ms Johnson said that she was placed awkwardly as a result of a slow start, and was inconvenienced as a result of Mr Sweeney’s movement on to her line of racing. She said that were both placed awkwardly going around the bend and did not believe that her carelessness was at a high level. She said there was minimal movement and that Mr Sweeney may have lost only about half a length. She finished second in the race and she submitted that had the interference been serious, that a protest would have been lodged, and that did not happen. She added that her horse had a habit of racing somewhat erratically, and that this could be seen from the horse’s head movement, as the race progressed.

 

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS

Mr Oatham submitted that in imposing penalty that regard must be had for the period of time that the incident went on for. He said that

Mr Sweeney was placed in an awkward position over a distance of approximately 200 metres and that in the Stipendiary Stewards’ view, “it was high end carelessness”.

 

Ms Johnson was appearing on her 4th breach of the careless riding rule. She was suspended for 4 days on 5th July, 4 days on 8th November and 6 days on 26th December 2014. However, Mr Oatham pointed out that Ms Johnson was a “busy rider” having had close to 500 rides in the current racing season. She had 820 rides in the 2013/2014 season.

 

Mr Oatham submitted that a suspension of 8-10 days was appropriate.

 

Ms Johnson asked the Committee to take into account her record which she said was not bad when looked at against the number of rides that she has. She asked us to consider that there were premier meetings on the racing calendar in the near future. She submitted that a 5 day suspension was appropriate. She applied for a deferment of the coming into effect of the period of suspension until after 25th January 2015.

There was no dispute that Ms Johnson is chasing the Jockey’s Premiership and that she is a “national rider”

 

PENALTY DECISION AND REASONS

The following oral penalty decision was given on the day of the hearing.

“Ms Danielle Johnson has admitted a charge of careless riding, after the RIU sort and obtained leave to withdraw a charge of improper riding.

 

The information as amended, alleged that Ms Johnson rode carelessly between the 1400 and 1200 metres when applying undue inward pressure to “Sir Sunny”, (M Sweeney) eventually forcing that runner to a position adjacent to the running rail.

 

Video evidence was shown of the incident which gave rise to the charge.

 

At the relevant time, Mr Sweeney was racing 2 off the running rail and seemingly wanting to hold that line, to avoid heels of a horse directly in front of him. Ms Johnson riding in a 3 wide position, began to apply inwards pressure on Mr Sweeney’s mount when approximately a neck in front. Ms Johnson seemed to turn her horse’s head inwards in the path of Mr Sweeney’s horse and continued to hold this position for a minimum of 150 metres. Mr Sweeney appeared to be unbalanced on more than one occasion. Eventually, Mr Sweeney was forced on to the rail and Ms Johnson ended up in a one off position.

 

With regard to penalty, Mr Oatham submitted that Ms Johnson is regarded as a busy national rider. He said that even though Ms Johnson has had 3 suspensions in the last 12 months, her record had to be looked at against the background of the number of rides that she has on an annual basis. In the 2013/2014 season Ms Johnson had 820 rides. He accepted that in the current season, she has had approximately 500 rides. He submitted that a suspension of between 8 and 10 days should be imposed. He further submitted that the degree of carelessness was “high end” because of the length of time it went on for.

 

In response, Ms Johnson submitted that her degree of carelessness was not as high as that submitted by the RIU, and that her record was a good one when looked at against the background of the number of rides that she has had. She also said that she was chasing the Jockey’s Premiership and that she is currently accepting rides from all over New Zealand and that we should take into account all race days when assessing penalty. She felt that a suspension of 5 days was adequate. She applied for a deferment of the coming into effect of the period of suspension. She also asked us to take into account that there were a number of high status races looming on the racing calendar, notably a Premier Day on 7th February 2015.

 

It is this committee’s opinion that the degree of carelessness was high and that will reflect in the penalty to be imposed. We find as a fact that Ms Johnson placed sustained pressure on Mr Sweeney over the distance alleged in the information. At times Mr Sweeney was seemingly unbalanced and we believe that Ms Johnson compromised his safety. We further find as a fact that Ms Johnson angled her horse’s head inwards, in order to maintain the pressure. It was a bad bit of riding.

 

For the purposes of penalty, we adopt as a starting point a suspension of 5 days in accordance with the Judicial Control Authority’s Penalty Guide.

 

We must then consider the aggravating and mitigating factors.

 

The aggravating factor of most significance is the high degree of carelessness. That warrants, in our view, an uplift on our starting point of 4 days, making the penalty a suspension of 9 days.

 

We turn now to the mitigating factor which we identify as Ms Johnson’s admission of the charge at an early stage, for which we allow a discount of 1 day, making the suspension that of 8 days. We assess Ms Johnson’s record as average even taking into account the number of rides that she has. Thus her record is regarded as neutral for the purposes of assessing penalty.

 

However, the penalty does not end at this point. We consider that the matter was that serious, when looked at in its totality, as to warrant a fine in addition to the suspension. We set that fine at $1,000.00.

 

PENALTY

Ms Johnson is suspended for 8 racing days.

 

Ms Johnson’s application for a deferment is granted. The suspension will commence at the conclusion of racing on 25th January, 2015 and end at the conclusion of racing on Friday 6th February 2015. That will encompass meetings at 26/01/15 (Te Teko), 28/01/15 (Canterbury Jockey Club), 29/01/15 (Hastings) 30/01/15 (New Plymouth), 31/01/15 (Te Rapa), 04/02/15 (Invercargill), 05/02/15 (Tauranga) and 06/02/15 (Tauherenikau).

 

In addition, Ms Johnson is fined the sum of $1,000.00.

 

KG HALES                   A DOOLEY

Chairman                   Committee Member

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