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Canterbury JC 8 August 2018 - R 8 - Chair, Mr S Ching

Created on 10 August 2018

SChing (chair)
Mr S Higgins - Licensed Jumps Rider (Class D)
Mr J Oatham - Chief Stipendiary Steward
Mr J McLaughlin - Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
Unnecessary use of the whip

Following the running of Race 8, the Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury 129th Grand National Hurdles, an Information was filed by Stipendiary Steward, Mr J McLaughlin, against Licensed Jumps Jockey (Class D), Mr S Higgins, alleging that he used the whip unnecessarily over the concluding stages on his mount JACK FROST.

Mr Higgins had endorsed the Information that the breach was admitted which he confirmed at the hearing. He also confirmed that he understood the rule he was being charged with.

Rule 638 provides as follows:

(3) A Rider shall not:

(b) strike a horse with a whip in a manner or to an extent which is:

(i) unnecessary

The “Guidelines with Respect to Acceptable Use of the Whip” provide as follows:

Without affecting the generality of Rule 638(3)(b) a rider may be penalised if their whip use is outside of the following guidelines:

Inside the final 600 metres of any Race, official trial or jump-out a horse may be struck with the drawn whip up to five times after which the rider must cease their use of the whip for a minimum of five strides before striking the horse again with the drawn whip, with this restriction to apply prior to the final 100 metres. The whip may then be used at the rider’s discretion until the winning post is reached. Prior to the final 600 metres of a race, official trial or jump-out the use of the drawn whip is acceptable if used in moderation and not continually.

Not withstanding the above it will also be deemed to be unacceptable where a rider uses the drawn whip;

e) when a horse is clearly winning.

Mr McLaughlin, with the assistance of Chief Stipendiary Steward, Mr J Oatham, showed video replays of the concluding stages of the race. He pointed out Mr Higgins riding JACKFROST, just before the last hurdle and clearly in the lead with quite some advantage. Mr Oatham showed on the lateral films JACKFROST jumping the last fence with what appears to be a winning lead. Shortly afterwards, he said, and just inside the 100m, Mr Higgins drew the whip and struck JACKFROST consecutively through to the finish line. Mr Oatham then showed the head on films which he said made it particularly apparent the amount of force that Mr Higgins is putting into that whip use which he submitted was high.

Mr Oatham then showed the films from the home turn which showed JACKFROST racing into a position outside the lead horse LAEKEEPER. He pointed out JACKFROST assuming the lead just before the 2nd to last hurdle and leading the race clearly from that point. Mr Oatham stated that Mr Higgins had plenty of opportunity to know where he was in the race which makes the final 100m of the event concerning as it would to most people viewing the race.

Mr McLaughlin produced as evidence photos taken by Racing Investigator, Mrs K Williams, of the rear left hindquarter of JACKFROST which clearly showed inflamed whip marks.

Mr Higgins stated that he was in the Grand National Hurdles and did not want to leave it to chance. He said it was not like any other race where you could hear the horses if they were coming up behind you because the roar from the crowd was loud and prevented that. He said that 2 of the strikes never actually hit the horse and went over the top of its backside. He stated that the Trackside replay showed those 2 strikes clearly missing the horse. Mr Higgins said that in his opinion a glancing blow is not as much as a strike. He said that it was the way he uses his hand that makes it look worse than it is. Mr Higgins also said that he did not believe his strikes were as hard as other riders. He stated that he had never left marks on a horse like that before. He conceded that the look is bad and that he should not have done it.

Mr McLaughlin summed up by reading the JCA Penalty Guidelines which states that Rule 638 (3)(b) being excessive, unnecessary and improper and notwithstanding the improper use stated that this breach was all of the above especially when the horse was 8 to 10 lengths in front after the last hurdle. The Guidelines also state, he said, that where the unnecessary use is of an order that is inexcusable, grossly unacceptable or raises alarming animal welfare concerns, then a suspension is the starting point. Mr McLaughlin said that this breach was inexcusable and also described it as appalling to think that even though it was the Grand National Hurdle, Mr Higgins should have shown better judgement than to treat an animal like that. He also stated that this incident was grossly unacceptable, and we need to send a deterrent to the riders that the industry will not tolerate this at all.


Mr Higgins having admitted the breach; the charge was found proved.

Submission For Penalty:

Mr McLaughlin stated that this breach was high level and as bad as the Stewards had ever seen. He was also concerned that Mr Higgins showed little remorse for his actions. Mr McLaughlin said that Mr Higgins had a previous breach of this rule in September 2017 for excessive use of the whip which he said must be taken into consideration. He said that this breach should be dealt with by way of suspension and a fine in addition for the status of the race. Mr McLaughlin stated that the JCA Penalty Guide provided a 6 to 8 National Day suspension and suggested an 8 National Day starting point but with Mr Higgins being a jumps rider, submitted a suspension be imposed with that status considered. He submitted that the fine be no less than $1000.

Mr Oatham made reference to a recent excessive use of the whip breach by Jumps rider S Fannin on 6 May 2018 at Te Aroha where he received a 6 National Jumps day suspension for 18 strikes prior to the 100m which was deemed to be high end use of the whip. He said Mr Fannin won the race and had a poor record.

Mr Higgins said that rather than a heavy suspension he requested that a reduced suspension and an increase in fine be considered as penalty due to the lack of opportunities for jumps riders.

Mr Higgins requested a deferment of suspension until after racing on 15 August as he had confirmed rides at the Te Aroha meeting on that date.

Reasons For Penalty:

The JCA Penalty Guide provides that where the improper or unnecessary use is of an order that is inexcusable, grossly unacceptable or raises alarming animal welfare concerns then a suspension is the starting point.

We found that this unnecessary whip use was of an order that is inexcusable, grossly unacceptable and raised alarming animal welfare concerns.

This Committee was satisfied that JACKFROST was struck on at least 8 occasions over the final 100m and after the last hurdle, when the horse was comfortably winning the race. The film replays, especially the head on views, were compelling and showed the strikes as being of high force and continuous from the 100m to the finish line.

Aggravating factors to consider for penalty were;
- the high force used,
-the continuous use of the whip over the concluding 100m
- the fact that the horse had a lead margin of 8 to 10 lengths at the 100m
-Mr Higgins' previous excessive use breach in September 2017
- the status of the race being the Grand National Hurdles.

After taking all matter into consideration, we therefore determined that a suspension was an inevitable penalty in this case in conjunction with a fine as submitted by Mr McLaughlin.

The JCA Penalty Guide provides a 6 to 8 National day suspension for flat riders for a breach of this rule but as Mr Higgins is a Jumps rider we determined that to impose a meaningful penalty an alternate process of determining penalty was required. The Fannin penalty of 6 National Jumps days for high end excessive use, as referred by Mr Oatham, was of assistance to us. Taking into consideration all aggravating factors above and Mr Higgins' admission, which was inevitable as the breach was in our opinion, undefendable, we determined that a period of suspension was an appropriate penalty in this case. This period of suspension we set at 8 weeks. In addition, we determined that a fine in addition to the suspension was warranted. That fine we set at $800.

Mr Higgins' request for a deferment until after racing on 15 August was granted.


Mr Higgins is suspended from the conclusion of racing 15 August up to and including 10 October 2018. National Jumps days included in this period of suspension are Wanganui on 19 August, Te Rapa on 25 August, Te Aroha on 2 September, Ellerslie on 9 September, Rotorua on 16 September, Wanganui on 19 September and Te Aroha on 30 September.

Mr Higgins is in addition fined the sum of $800.

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