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15 Mar 2020
Banks-Peninsula-Tc - R 2

Banks Peninsula TC 15 March 2020 - R 2 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Created on 18 March 2020

Committee:
RMcKenzie (chair)
LYong
DAnderson
Name(s):
Mr R L Houghton - Licensed Open Driver
Informant
Mr P Williams - Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
A13167
Plea:
Admitted
Charge:
Contravention of the Use of the Whip Regulations
Evidence:

Following the running of Race 2, Clocktower Motors Fillies & Mares Pace, an information was filed by Stipendiary Steward, Mr P Williams, against Licensed Open Driver, Mr R L Houghton, alleging that, as the driver of SHE’S TOUGH in the race, he “used his whip on more occasions than permitted by Clause (b) of the Use of Whip Regulations”.

Mr Houghton had signed the Statement by the Respondent on the information form indicating that he admitted the breach. He confirmed this at the hearing at which he was present.

Rule 869 provides as follows:

(2) No horseman shall during any race use a whip in a manner in contravention of the Use of the Whip Regulations made by the Board.

The Use of Whip Regulations (effective from 30 November 2017) provide:

(b) No horseman is permitted to use their whip in a striking motion on more than ten occasions inside the final 400 metres. This is inclusive of “backhanders” and the use applies to the horse, harness and/or sulky.

Mr Williams showed head-on and side-on video replays of the final 400 metres of the race. He pointed out SHE’S TOUGH, driven by Mr Houghton, the widest runner of the field as the field turned into the home straight. Mr Williams alleged that, from the 400 metres, Mr Houghton used the whip in his left hand 11 times to the finishing line. The Committee noted that SHE’S TOUGH won the race by the margin of 1¼ lengths.

Mr Houghton accepted the alleged count of 11 strikes. He attempted to explain the last strike but accepted that it was a strike. The Committee, from its own observation, clearly agreed with the number of strikes alleged by the Stewards.

Mr Houghton asked for the side-on video to be replayed to the hearing. He submitted that, perception-wise, it did not look bad. His whip action was not up and down, he said.

Decision:

Mr Houghton having admitted the breach, the charge was found proved.

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Houghton has had 33 drives this season, Mr Williams said. Last season he had 95 drives. His record is “very, very poor” under the rule, he said. Mr Williams then detailed the breaches of the rule by Mr Houghton in the last 6 months – 10 October 2019 at Addington (fined $200), 23 November 2019 at Geraldine (3 days), 22 December 2019 at Rangiora (6 days) and 15 February 2020 at Oamaru (8 days). The drive today on SHE’S TOUGH was Mr Houghton’s first drive since coming off the suspension of 8 days imposed on 15 February.

Stewards believed that, in view of Mr Houghton’s record, it was appropriate that Mr Houghton should receive a suspension for a period of not less than 2 months, Mr Williams said.

Mr Houghton said that, if one went back through his record, he was “one-over” every time. He added that three of the strikes were on the shaft and the perception was not bad. He submitted that a 2-months suspension was a long time but he accepted that his record does not look good. He put his record down to being “too competitive”.

Mr Houghton did not seek a deferment of suspension.

Reasons For Penalty:

Mr Houghton’s record is nothing short of appalling. This is his fifth breach inside the last 6 months, his seventh in the last 12 months and, going back to July 2018, his eleventh since that time, in 130-odd drives. Incredibly, this breach occurred in his first drive back since being suspended on 15 February last on the same horse, SHE’S TOUGH, at Oamaru.

Mr Houghton told the Committee that his recent breaches all involved one strike over the permitted number. We looked into this matter and, without going into detail, we found this to be not correct.

The two most recent suspensions in the last 3 months of 6 days and 8 days, clearly, have been insufficient to deter Mr Houghton and it is difficult for this Committee to arrive at a penalty that will serve to deter him. It is obvious that there needs to be a significant increase in penalty to stress to Mr Houghton that he cannot continue to flout the whip rule. With use of the whip in harness racing coming under increasing scrutiny from a number of quarters, his continuing to breach the rule simply cannot be tolerated. It is damaging to the image of harness racing.

Weighing up all factors and, in particular Mr Houghton’s record and the need to impose a deterrent penalty, it is the Committee’s decision that a suspension for a term of two months is appropriate.

Penalty:

Mr Houghton’s Open Horseman’s licence is suspended from after the close of racing on 15 March next, up to and including 15 May 2020 next – 2 months.

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