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03 Mar 2019
Cheviot-Hrc - R2

Cheviot HRC 3 March 2019 - R 2 - Chair, Mr R McKenzie

Created on 04 March 2019

Committee:
RMcKenzie (chair)
HWeston
Name(s):
R L Houghton
Licensed Open Driver
Informant
Stipendiary Stewards
S W Wallis
Information Number
A10838
Plea:
Admitted
Charge:
Excessive Use of Whip
Evidence:

Following the running of Race 2, Rural Livestock & Dale Taylor Shearing Mobile Pace, an information was filed by Stipendiary Steward, Mr S W Wallis, against Licensed Open Driver, Mr R L Houghton, alleging that, as the driver of THE LAST STRAW in the race, he “used his whip on more occasions than is 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 denied the breach. However, prior to the commencement of the hearing, he sought leave to change his plea and admit the charge.

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 Wallis showed video replays of the final stages of the race. He pointed out THE LAST STRAW, driven by Mr Houghton, racing in the parked position as the field passed the 400 metres. Mr Wallis showed that Mr Houghton activated gear and alleged that, from the 400 metres, used his whip in a striking motion on twelve occasions. Mr Houghton told the Committee that he agreed with the alleged number of strikes.

Mr Wallis said that Stewards had no problem with the force of the strikes, rather it was the number that was of concern.

Mr Houghton said that one of the strikes on the home turn was on the sulky shaft, but he did not deny that he was aware that a strike on the shaft was included. The last two strikes were with minimal force, “flicks”, he submitted.

Decision:

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

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Wallis said that Mr Houghton has driven in 73 races this season prior to this meeting. Last season he drove in 21 races. He has had two breaches in the last 6 months, Mr Wallis said – on 30 September 2018 at Banks Peninsula (5 days) and on 30 November 2019 at Addington (7 days). This being Mr Houghton’s third breach in the last six months, Mr Wallis said that Stewards would be seeking a term of suspension greater that the last suspension of 7 days.

Mr Wallis clarified details of Mr Houghton’s record. He had been fined $500 on 22 July 2018 and, on 29 July 2018, received a suspension of 4 days. So, the suspension of 5 days on 30 September 2018 was on the basis that it was Mr Houghton’s third breach within six months and the suspension of 7 days on 30 November 2018 was, therefore, for a fourth breach.

Mr Houghton said that he has had a lot more drives in the last six months. He would have had “50-odd” drives since his last breach. He has changed his whip action in that time and this breach was just over the threshold of 10 strikes, he said.

It was then discussed, the upcoming meetings at which Mr Houghton would be likely to drive. Mr Houghton said that he had driving engagements at the meetings of Westport and Reefton on 8th and 10th March respectively and he requested a deferment until after the latter date. Mr Houghton told the Committee that ALTA ORLANDO is going to Invercargill this week and he would be driving it at meetings at Wyndham on 16th March and Wairio on 23rd March. 

Reasons For Penalty:

The Use of the Whip Regulation provides a starting point for penalty for a 2nd or subsequent breach of the whip Rule of a 3-5 days suspension. This breach is Mr Houghton’s third in the last six months. The number of strikes was in the lower range under the Regulation, 11-13, and the strikes were not forceful or uninterrupted.

However, Mr Houghton’s record is a poor one – in the last eight months, inclusive of the present breach, he has breached the Regulation five times, and this is of concern. On the two most recent occasions, Mr Houghton has received terms of suspension of five and seven days. We note that the latter was for a 4th breach within six months, whereas the present breach is the 3rd within six months, a factor which we have taken into account.

The Committee could easily be looking at imposing a term of suspension longer that the most recent of seven days, and Mr Wallis submitted that this would be appropriate. However, we are prepared to show some leniency – it is three months since the most recent breach, Mr Houghton tells us that he has had in excess of 50 drives since that breach and we accept that the breach itself is low-end. The Committee has, therefore, decided that the term of suspension will be one of six days, and not an increase on the previous suspension of seven days, to reflect those factors to which we have referred. It is hoped that this further term of suspension will provide a sufficient deterrent to Mr Houghton. 

Penalty:

Mr Houghton’s application for a deferment of his suspension for seven days is granted.

Mr Houghton’s Open Horseman’s Licence is suspended from after the close of racing on 10 March next, up to and including 24 March next – six days. The meetings intended to be encompassed by the period of suspension are NZ Metropolitan TC on 15 March, Wyndham HRC on 16 March, Banks Peninsula TC on 17 March, NZ Metropolitan TC on 22 March, Wairio TC on 23 March and Waimate TC on 24 March.

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