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Auckland RC 20 February 2021 – R 7 – Chair, Mr G Jones

Created on 22 February 2021

Rules:
638(1)(d)
Committee:
GJones (chair)
RMcKenzie
Name(s):
Ms S Spratt - Rider of LORD ARDMORE
Mr A Coles - Stipendiary Steward
Informant
Mr J Oatham - Chief Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
A14023
Plea:
Admitted
Charge:
Careless riding
Evidence:

This charge arises from the running of Race 7, the AJC Avondale Guineas (Group 2). Chief Stipendiary Steward, Mr Oatham filed an Information pursuant to Rule 638(1)(d) alleging the rider of LORD ARDMORE (Ms S Spratt), “allowed her mount to shift in when not sufficiently clear of ZOLTAN which was crowded and checked placing ULAANBAATAR in restricted room near the 2000 metres”.

Introductory matters

Ms Spratt endorsed the Information indicating that she admitted the breach of the Rule. However, when asked by the Committee to confirm her admission and whether she understood the nature of the charge her response was that she believed that she was guilty of one part of the charge but not guilty of another part (with reference to Mr Weatherley being dislodged from his mount). This led to some discussion as the Committee needed to be sure that Ms Spratt was not only advised of the charge, but her guilty plea was based on an informed decision and a clear understanding on her part as to the nature of the charge. This is because it is well recognised that the Informant has the onus of ensuring that the particulars of a charge include such relevant detail (of the offence) to fairly inform a Respondent. In this regard Mr Oatham responded by saying that the charge does not specify; the fact that Mr Weatherley was dislodged from ULAANBAATAR, and that it is not intended that it be part of the charge against Ms Spratt. He added that it is up to the Committee to determine how much weight is placed on the fact that Mr Weatherley was dislodged from ULAANBAATAR.

The Committee decided that it would hear evidence and make it own determination as to the impact and consequences of Ms Spratt’s carelessness. Ms Spratt confirmed her admission of the breach and the hearing proceeded on that basis.

Rule 638(1) (d) provides: A Rider shall not ride a horse in a manner which the Judicial Committee considers to be careless.

The Evidence

Using all available video footage Stipendiary Steward, Mr Coles demonstrated the incident and identified all horses named in the Information: namely LORD ARDMORE (S Spratt), ZOLTAN (L Allpress) and ULAANBAATAR (S Weatherley).

With the support of the head, rear and side-on race films Mr Coles told the Committee that the three horses named in the Information drew barriers 1 (ULAANBAATAR), 2 (ZOLTAN) and 3 (LORD ARDMORE). He said after starting from the 2100 metres, approaching the 2000-metre mark LORD ARMORE shifted in across ZOLTAN whose rider, (Mrs Allpress), had to take a hold and ZOLTAN was checked. He said that when she crossed crowding occurred to ZOLTAN because Ms Spratt was no more than a length clear. Mr Coles said that ZOLTAN ran out of racing room when Ms Spratt settled into a 2-off position after being 3-wide. This, he said placed ULAANBAATAR in restricted room and caused that horse to overreact and make heavy contact with the running rail. Mr Weatherley was dislodged from his mount as a result. Mr Coles emphasised that ULAANBAATAR reacted poorly to being placed in restricted room. Mr Coles then showed the various available camera angles of the incident.

In response Ms Spratt said that when she came across (after jumping from barrier 3), Mrs Allpress had to take hold of her mount; but it was ULAANBAATAR who “panicked and hit the rail”. She said Mrs Allpress was racing one off the fence and there was always a gap for ULAANBAATAR (she referred to the rear-on film as evidence of this submission). Ms Spratt said that ULAANBAATAR started to run away from the fence prior to being place in restricted room. She added that ULAANBAATAR was renown for being a difficult horse to ride. She said she was told by both Mrs Allpress and Mr Weatherley that there was no contact between ZOLTAN and ULAANBAATAR prior to Mr Weatherley being dislodged, and that ULAANBAATAR “just ran away from the fence”. She believed that it was not her fault that ULAANBAATAR went into the fence.

The Committee sought advice from Mr Oatham as to what Stewards were told by riders during their post-race investigation. Mr Oatham said that Mr Weatherley advised that it got tight and his horse was “a flighty horse” and it did react poorly when placed in restricted room. Mr Oatham accepted that ULAANBAATAR'S reaction to being tightened contributed to Mr Weatherley being dislodged.

In concluding her submissions, Ms Spratt said that quite often in races horses bang into the running rail and another horse may not have reacted as ULAANBAATAR did in the same situation.

Decision:

As Ms Spratt admitted the breach the Committee found the charge proved. 

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Oatham produced Ms Spratt’s riding record which indicated one previous breach under the Careless Riding Rule in the last 12 months. This occurred at the Racing Rotorua meeting on 28 December 2020 and resulted in a 5-day suspension plus a $500 fine. He said Ms Spratt otherwise has a particularly good record.

Mr Oatham placed Ms Spratt’s level of carelessness in the mid-range. This was because Mrs Allpress had to check her mount and there were consequences that resulted in a race fall. Mr Oatham emphasised that when framing the charge, the fact there was a fall was deliberately not included due to the mitigating circumstances surrounding the incident. He submitted that in normal circumstances Stewards would not expect a horse to react as ULAANBAATAR did. He said ULAANBAATAR reacted badly due to its racing manners and that was part of the reason it was racing in ‘side winkers’ for the first time.

Mr Oatham submitted that although the Penalty Guide has a 4 week (suspension) starting point recognition must be given that Mr Weatherley’s fall was not specified as an ingredient of the charge. He further asked the Committee to consider the following factors:

 That the recently revised Penalty Guide includes lower starting points for careless riding.
 That due to COVID 19 the racing calendar has been reduced and there are less race riding days available.
 That any proposed suspension is likely to include several Premier race days.
 That a 2-week suspension and fine would be appropriate.

In her penalty submission Ms Spratt reiterated that she did not cause the race fall. She said that even the trainer of the horse that fell was aware of its manners and she should not be suspended for 4 weeks because someone (Mrs Allpress) has had to take hold of her mount. She added there was a gap for the horse (ULAANBAATAR), and it jumped through the rail.

Ms Spratt did not seek a deferment to any proposed penalty. 

Reasons For Penalty:

After considering the submissions and reviewing the race film the Committee assessed Ms Spratt’s level of carelessness to be in the low to mid-range, but there were consequences to two runners that must be considered. For a low-level carelessness, the NZTR Penalty Directive recommends a 4-day suspension and $250 fine, and for mid-range carelessness a 5-day suspension and $500 fine is recommended as starting points. On the other hand, the JCA Penalty Guide recommends a 4-week suspension as the starting point in circumstances of carelessness resulting in a fall.

Our analysis of the race films alongside our consideration of the submissions tend to support the view that despite Ms Spratt’s shifting, crowding ZOLTAN, and placing ULAANBAATAR in some restricted racing room; she was not solely responsible for causing Mr Weatherley to be dislodged. There is some merit to the argument that was advanced by both Ms Spratt and Mr Oatham that the racing manners of ULAANBAATAR contributed. Ms Spratt’s inward shift was not abrupt, and she simply shifted from a 3-wide to a 2-wide position without being the required distance clear of ZOLTAN. Nevertheless, still rendering her liable for careless riding.

Despite Ms Spratt’s assertion that she did not cause the fall, clearly in our view, there is a causative nexus between Ms Spratt’s carelessness and the fall. However, we believe, and this is evidenced by the head on film, that there was always a gap on rail for ULAANBAATAR and it merely overreacted after being placed in some restricted racing room. It appears that ULAANBAATAR may have reacted moments before being placed in tight quarters. We also note that despite ZOLTAN shifting inward, there was no discernible contact between that horse and ULAANBAATAR, at best there may have been a momentary touch. On that basis we do not place full responsibility for Mr Weatherley being dislodged on Ms Spratt and this is reflected in our assessment of her level of carelessness and her overall culpability.

In the Appeal Tribunal hearing B R Jones v RIU (2014); a racing incident which related to a rider being dislodged because of Mr Jones’ carelessness, despite the Tribunal in upholding the Race Day Committee Decision to find the breach established, it reduced the penalty from a 12-day to an 8-day suspension and in doing so made the following comment:

In reaching the penalty decision a greater concentration should have been placed upon measuring the degree of carelessness which had been exhibited by Mr Jones. That was at a low level.

Whilst this Decision predated the JCA Penalty Guide which has a 4-week penalty as the starting point, it is noteworthy, and we agree that rider’s level of culpability is a key determinative factor when considering penalty.

An aggravating factor is that this breach occurred in a Group 2 Race with stakemoney of $120,000.

Rule 920(2) empowers a Committee in imposing a penalty to have due regard to such matters as it considers appropriate including: (a) the Status of the Race; (b) the stake payable in respect of the Race; (c) any consequential effects upon any person or horse because of the breach of the Rule; and/or (d) the need to maintain integrity and public confidence in racing.

Accordingly, in assessing penalty we have factored into our decision-making the status and stakes of the race as well as the consequences, i.e., Mr Weatherly being dislodged. We are also advised that Mr Weatherly received on-site medical attention. Although he was not hospitalised, we believe he may miss a day’s racing as a result.

The mitigating factors we considered included Ms Spratt’s admission of the breach, albeit her failure to fully grasp the link between her carelessness and the fall. Having had one previous breach in the past 12 months, Ms Spratt does have a particularly good riding record in relation to the Rule.

In reaching our Penalty Decision the Committee was mindful that there are currently fewer riding opportunities available and any proposed penalty will inevitably encompass Premier Racing Days and these in themselves will represent a loss of earning capacity. However, it has been said in other cases of this nature, and we agree, that riders must always be mindful of future riding opportunities missed because of their carelessness. Furthermore, whilst there must always be a determent aspect to any penalty, especially where rider safety is concerned, these must always be balanced against the level of blameworthiness and other mitigating factors which are routinely relied on in sentencing.

Fortunately, carelessness involving a fall are relatively rare. We have considered and taken some guidance from some of the precedent cases. For example:

 RIU v Cooksley (2018) – suspended 3 weeks.
 RIU v Innes (2019) – suspended 5 weeks (upheld on appeal)
 RIU v Fawcett (2020) – suspended 4 weeks.

With regards to these cases, it is evident that they are fact dependant and culpability has been a determinative factor in each case when assessing penalty.

After considering all the above factors the Committee deemed that an appropriate penalty is a combined suspension and fine. Accordingly, we impose a 9-day suspension and $1000 fine.

9 national days equates to 20 calendar days or 1 day short of 3 weeks. This represents a 25% reduction from the 4-week starting point.

Penalty:

Ms Spratt’s licence to ride in races is suspended for a period commencing after racing on 20 February and concluding after racing on 12 March 2021. In addition, she is fined $1000.

The meeting at Hastings on 21 February is not included as rider declarations had been declared.

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