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Banks Peninsula TC 15 March 2020 - R 9 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Created on 18 March 2020

Committee:
RMcKenzie (chair)
LYong
DAnderson
Name(s):
Ms K M Cox - Licensed Open Driver
Ms K M Butt - Driver of MAGGIE
Informant
Mr P Williams - Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
A13171
Plea:
Denied
Charge:
Breach of push out rule
Evidence:

Following the running of Race 9, Commodore Hotel Team Teal Challenge Mobile Pace, an information was filed by Stipendiary Steward, Mr P Williams, against Licensed Open Driver, Ms K M Cox, alleging that Ms Cox, as the driver of AVA ADORE in the race, “shifted outwards prior to the 1000 metres forcing MAGGIE (K M Butt) over extra ground wider on the track”.

Ms Cox had signed the Statement by the Respondent on the information form indicating that she denied the charge. She confirmed this at the hearing, at which she was present.

Rule 869 provides as follows:

(4) No horseman shall during any race do anything which interferes or is likely to interfere with his own horse and/or any other horse or its progress.

(6) Subject to sub-rule (4) hereof:

(b) a horse making a forward movement during any race shall not be forced to race wider on the track;

(c) a horse during a race shall not move ground outwards once the nose of the wider runner coming forward is in line with or past its sulky wheel and until the wider runner going forward is fully past.

Submission For Decision:

Mr Williams showed side-on and head on video replays of the relevant part of the race. He pointed out Ms Cox, driving AVA ADORE, racing three places back in the one-out line, passing the 1200 metres. Ms Butt, driving MAGGIE, was five places back. Prior to the 1000 metres, Ms Butt pulled out and improved quite quickly 3-wide. As she improved to outside Ms Cox’s wheel, Ms Cox pulled her horse out and, in doing so, forced Ms Butt’s runner to race wider on the track. This was in breach of rule 869 (6) (b), that had come into force in November last year, Mr Williams submitted.

Ms Cox said that when she decided to come out, Ms Butt was making her move. However, Ms Cox submitted, she had got out prior to Ms Butt getting to her wheel. Her own horse was a little slow to come out, and Ms Butt’s momentum had increased just as she came out. Ms Butt was forced to race wider because of her own momentum and, Ms Cox submitted, she was already out at that point. If Ms Butt had not increased speed, she would have been on her back, she said. She considered that it was “borderline” under rule 869 (6) (a) but she felt that, when she did shift out, she was clear of Ms Butt’s runner.

Mr Williams submitted that it is not a defence for a driver to say that the runner affected had increased its speed.

Ms Butt said that she could see, from some distance behind, that Ms Cox was making her move. It appeared that Ms Cox’s horse was being slow to respond. She agreed she had “chased” her horse to attempt to get there before Ms Cox came out. Ms Butt said that it appeared from the video that Ms Cox had made her movement before she was at her wheel. However, when asked by the Committee, Ms Butt agreed that she had been forced wider. It had not been her intention to race 4-wide when she improved, Ms Butt said. She did have the opportunity to take a hold of her horse and restrain onto Ms Cox’s back but did not wish to do so by way of a sudden movement.

Ms Cox, referring to the head-on video, suggested that the running line had veered outwards making it appear that Ms Butt’s horse had been pushed out further than it would otherwise have been. Ms Butt was wider than a normal 3-wide position as a result, Ms Cox submitted.

Reasons For Decision:

The rule known as “the pushout rule” underwent a significant amendment in November 2019. All that is required to be proved, following the amendment, is that a horse making a forward movement shall not be required to race wider on the track prior to the 1000 metres.

The Committee viewed side-on and head-on video replays of the incident prior to the 1000 metres. Ms Cox’s runner had been racing three places back in the running line, Ms Butt two places behind her. Ms Butt then pulled her runner to improve 3-wide and it did improve at some speed. Ms Cox then pulled her runner out to a 3-wide position and the question for the Committee is, as Ms Butt improved, was she forced into a 4-wide position when Ms Cox came out.

Ms Cox argued that she was out before Ms Butt got to her and Ms Butt, with momentum, had elected to progress 4-wide. She had therefore not forced her to race 4-wide, she argued. We heard lengthy submissions from Ms Cox and evidence from Ms Butt to which we gave earnest consideration. We also carefully studied the video replays which, in the end, were most helpful to us in arriving at our decision to find the charge proved.

The video replays showed, to our satisfaction, that Ms Butt had got up alongside the wheel of Ms Cox at the point at which Ms Cox commenced her outwards movement. Ms Cox continued to shift out and took Ms Butt out 4-wide, or forced her to race wider on the track in terms of the rule. Ms Butt did say that that she was forced to race wider and that she would not have been 4-wide had she not been so forced.

The Committee is therefore satisfied that the elements of rule 869 (6) (b) referred to above, the rule under which Ms Cox has been charged, have been proved. We are not required to make a finding as to whether this was a breach of rule 869 (6) (c).

Decision:

The charge is found proved.

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Williams said that Ms Cox’s record under the rule is clear. This season, Ms Cox has had 60 drives and, last season, had 90 drives. Ms Butt had been forced to race wider on the track for some considerable distance.

The Penalty Guide starting point for a breach of the rule is a 5-drives suspension or a $250 fine. A fine is the appropriate in this instance, Mr Williams submitted, and that fine should be not less than $250. Stewards saw this breach as being in the low-to-mid range, Mr Williams said.

Ms Cox disagreed that she had forced Ms Butt to race wider on the track for a considerable distance and submitted that the chances of Ms Butt’s runner were not likely to have been affected. She repeated her submission that the breach was borderline. Her horse was a little slow in coming out and the racing manners of Ms Butt’s runner was also a contributing factor, she submitted.

Ms Cox was asked whether she would prefer to receive a suspension rather than a monetary penalty. She said that she was a young trainer trying to get started in the industry. After a discussion and a consideration of upcoming meetings, she stated that she would prefer to take a fine.

Reasons For Penalty:

Ms Cox has expressed a preference for a fine rather than a suspension and the Committee accepts that a fine is an appropriate penalty. The starting point for a mid-range breach is a fine of $250. Ms Cox has a clear record and she told us that she has never breached the rule previously. That is a mitigating factor for which she is entitled to credit. While she can receive no discount for admitting the breach, she did have an arguable defence to the charge.

Having regard to the starting point referred to and to Ms Cox’s excellent record, the Committee finds that a fine of $200 is appropriate.

Penalty:

Ms Cox is fined the sum of $200.

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