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Non-Raceday Inquiry - TD Thornton

The Judicial Committee sat to consider and determine information No.0832 filed by the informant Racecourse Inspector B F McKenzie against the Defendant Licensed Jockey T D Thornton alleging a breach of Rule 304 (Misconduct) of the NZ Rules of Racing.





The Judicial Committee sat to consider and determine information No.0832 filed by the informant Racecourse Inspector B F McKenzie against the Defendant Licensed Jockey T D Thornton alleging a breach of Rule 304 (Misconduct) of the NZ Rules of Racing.


At the commencement of the proceedings, the Defendant through her counsel Mr Tannahill, denied the charge.


Mr J W McKenzie, Prosecuting, produced the written authority from the Chief Executive of NZTR to file the information being determined.


Mr J W McKenzie called and presented evidence from four witnesses.  They being Mr Robert Buckmaster (Jockey Room Doorman), Alan Coles (Stipendiary Steward), Cory Parish (Apprentice Jockey) and Bryan McKenzie (Racecourse Inspector).  In addition, a written and signed statement from L G Innes (Licensed Jockey) was admitted by consent of Mr Tannahill.




The prosecution produced evidence to the effect that both the Defendant and Cory Parish had ridden in the final race on the programme at the Waikato Racing Club meeting at Te Rapa on 30 April 2008.  Evidence was heard of a verbal altercation between the two about the time of Race Eight, in connection with a statement having allegedly been made by Parish that involved the Defendants name.


Evidence was given as to the fact that in the run down the home straight, in the final race there was some slight movement by the mount ridden by Parish onto the mount ridden by the Defendant.  It was accepted by both parties that this riding incident was not of any concern to the officials.  Evidence was given that the two riders in question, who were both unplaced in the race, were near the unplaced horses’ gate entry to the birdcage, when there was a heated verbal altercation between the two.  Just who started this altercation was a matter of dispute.


The evidence established that after the riders had weighed in, each went to their respective rooms.  The prosecution evidence was to the effect the Defendant, a short time after dropping her gear in her room, went to the door of the male Jockeys’ Room and asked some person to have Cory Parish come to the door.  Cory Parish stated in his evidence that he went to the door with his colours in his hand thinking it was the trainer of the horse he had just ridden wanting the colours.


He stated when he came from behind the screen and arrived at the door he saw the Defendant there and she then physically grabbed him with both hands on his clothing in the region of his neck and started swearing and abusing him and at the same time she forced him back inside the male jockey room and up against a locker.  He said at no time did he do anything to the Defendant in retaliation.  He said he had thought that the Defendant was going to punch or strike him but she didn’t do so.   He said his hands were by his side during the incident which only lasted a short time.  He claimed he was shocked by what had happened.  He was aware that NZTR Officials then arrived and the Defendant left the room.


In response to cross examination by Mr Tannahill,  Cory Parish denied the suggestion put to him that he had gone to the entrance of the male jockey room and on seeing the Defendant had put his arm up and pushed her backward prior to her then grabbing him and pushing him back into the male jockey room.  He acknowledged during the cross examination that the Defendant had been very good to him and had helped him a lot in his career with tuition after he had left his previous employer.


The doorman, Robert Buckmaster, gave evidence that after the last race at a time when the riders were finishing the weigh in, he saw the Defendant approach the door to the male Jockeys’ Room and heard her ask for Cory Parish.  He saw Parish come to the door where he was grabbed around the neck area by the Defendant who was using obscenities directed at Parish and he saw her force Parish inside the Jockeys’ Room and up against a locker.


The witness also stated he thought he saw the Defendant throw a punch at Parish but he could not see whether it connected or not.   Parish did nothing to the Defendant and Parish looked shocked at what had happened to him.  He said he saw NZTR officials intervene in the incident.  In reply to cross examination the witness stated he did not see Cory Parish push at the Defendant prior to her forcing Parish into the male Jockeys’ Room.  He was adamant the Defendant was the instigator of the physical altercation with Cory Parish.


Stipendiary Steward Alan Coles gave evidence of the fact he and fellow Steward Matthew Williamson were made aware of the incident in the male Jockeys’ Room and were on the scene immediately and he was confronted with the sight of the Defendant with her hands up around the neck area of Cory Parish with Parish being up against a locker.  She was ordered from the room and the matter reported to the Racecourse Inspector.


The written evidence from Jockey Innes was to the effect he was aware of a verbal altercation between the Defendant and Parish after the race and prior to the weigh in and that when he had entered the male Jockeys’ Room after weighing in and sat down he then saw the Defendant in the room forcing Cory Parish up against a locker.


Racecourse Inspector Bryan McKenzie stated he spoke to the Defendant after the incident.  She complained about the riding of Cory Parish during the race and also of the fact he was responsible for spreading rumours about her.  She stated that she made a mistake going to the male Jockeys’ Room after the race.  She told the Inspector that when she went to the door and Parish came up to her, she started to speak to him and he grabbed her and pulled her inside the male Jockeys’ Room.  The Inspector gave evidence he then spoke with Jockey Innes and then again spoke with the Defendant.  He told her Leith Innes had claimed that she had been the instigator for the assault on Cory Parish and she then claimed bias on the part of Innes and again claimed that Cory Parish had dragged her into the room.


Mr Tannahill then called the Defendant to give evidence.  She back-grounded her involvement in being of assistance to Cory Parish in his riding career.  She verified a discussion between the two about the time of Race Eight.  She stated the riding incident in the home straight in Race 10 was not of concern to her.  She stated that when she had pulled up and ridden back to the birdcage gate, Cory Parish had ridden his horse up to near her and had started to swear at and abuse her.  She claimed this verbal assault had been witnessed by two other riders whom she named.


She stated this abuse had upset her greatly given all of the help she had given Cory Parish in the past.  After she had weighed in and taken her gear into the female Jockeys’ Room she had sat for a short while and was still very upset by the abuse she had received from Parish.  She then went to the door of the male room and had asked a rider who was about to enter to call for Cory Parish.  She stated when Parish came to the door he was wearing his shirt and riding vest and may have also have been still wearing his colours, she stated there were others persons around the door.


She said as she started to speak with Cory Parish he raised his arm at her and pushed her back and this had caused her to take the action of forcing him back into the male Jockeys’ Room.  She acknowledged abusing Cory Parish while this was happening.


Mr Tannahill called no other witnesses for the Defendant.


Both Mr J W McKenzie and Mr J A Tannahill made submissions.


Mr McKenzie submitted the facts of the prosecution case clearly established a charge of misconduct had been established by the evidence and referred to the meaning of misconduct.


Mr Tannahill submitted that there was an acknowledgement by his client that she should not have gone to the male Jockeys’ Room to seek out Parish and that the most she was guilty of, was abuse by her to Parish.  He disputed an assault had taken place.





The committee have given consideration to all of the evidence both verbal, and written, and the submissions made in this matter.  In addition, in considering this matter we have had the benefit of seeing and listening to those witnesses who gave evidence.


It is the finding of this committee that the evidence given by the witnesses Cory Parish and Robert Buckmaster was convincing, compelling, and credible and not shaken in any way by cross examination by experienced counsel Mr Tannahill.  We find the evidence clearly establishes there was an unprovoked assault by the Defendant upon Apprentice Jockey Cory Parish at the male Jockeys’ Room door and the evidence further clearly establishes the Defendant at the same time was being abusive to Cory Parish by the obscene language she was directing at him and that such action was creating disorder in what is a male sanctuary on a race day.


We do not accept the evidence of the Defendant that it was Cory Parish who first used force against her near the male Jockeys’ Room door causing her retaliation.  It is noteworthy that in her verbal statement to the Racecourse Inspector on the day she twice claimed that Cory Parish had dragged her into the Male Jockeys’ Room, and that is different to the story she told at this hearing.


We note the evidence of Racecourse Inspector Bryan McKenzie was not challenged by Mr Tannahill.  We also note that no witnesses were called by Mr Tannahill to support the claims by the Defendant as to the abuse neither near the birdcage gate, nor in relation to the allegation made by her about Parish pushing her first, near the door.



Whilst we accept that the Defendant did not punch or attempt to punch Cory Parish, her actions of using force against him and thereby committing an assault, as well as her abuse and disorderly action, clearly fall within the meaning of misconduct as set out in Rule 304 and accordingly having regard to all of the evidence, we find the charge proved.




Mr J W McKenzie submitted the conduct of the Defendant was completely unacceptable and unprofessional.  He stated any concerns by riders about matters occurring on the track must be dealt with through the judicial process.  He submitted the act of assault was aggravated behaviour that had no place in racing and must not be tolerated, and such behaviour would not be accepted by NZTR.


It was submitted that any penalty had to have a deterrence aspect to it.  He outlined a previous appearance for misconduct in 1992 for which the Defendant received a three months disqualification.  It was submitted that normally NZTR would ask for a greater penalty but on this occasion taking all factors into account a penalty of three months disqualification was being sought plus an award of costs amounting to $750.00 to NZTR.


Mr J W McKenzie advised the Committee that as a result of the guilty finding, the Board of NZTR would also require as a condition of her riding license reinstatement.  The Defendant would be required to complete an anger management course by an approved organisation.


Mr Tannahill submitted that the penalty sought by NZTR was too severe and not appropriate for what had happened on the day.   He drew to the attention of the committee a number of previous racing cases involving misconduct.  He made submissions as to the effects of disqualification upon the Defendant.  He submitted that a substantial fine and contribution to costs would be an appropriate penalty.





The Committee has carefully considered submissions on Penalty from Mr. McKenzie

and Mr. Tannahill.


We have heard conflicting evidence from both parties.  We are satisfied that Mrs

Thornton was the instigator of the physical confrontation that took place.


Mr McKenzie stressed the gravity of the breaches of Rule 304 which we agree with.  He submitted a three month disqualification should be imposed.  Mr Tannahill submitted that this should not be regarded as a serious breach of the Rule.  He quoted several breaches of this rule but none of those involved physical contact and are not comparable.   He also submitted that a fine would be sufficient.


We concede there may have been some provocation from Mr Parrish for the initial verbal abuse displayed by Mrs Thornton.  However we cannot condone the actions taken by Mrs Thornton after weighing in and returning to the ladies jockey room.  She then became the aggressor by calling for Mr Parish and instigating physical contact.  Such aggravated behaviour cannot be condoned nor can it be tolerated.  It has no place amongst licensed persons within the racing industry.  Mrs Thornton, as a senior jockey, must realize she cannot take such actions into her own hands.


Any penalty we impose must act as a deterrent to others and reflect the serious view that NZTR has on such conduct.


Before imposing a fair penalty we took into account the following:


1.                  Mrs Thornton’s assistance and tuition towards Mr Parish.

2.                  The fact that Mr Parrish contributed to the initial confrontation.

3.                  We give little credence to the previous disqualification served by Mrs Thornton in 1992.

4.                  Mrs Thornton has two dependent children to support and we are mindful of the consequences of disqualification. 


After balancing all these factors against the seriousness of the offence we impose a two month disqualification beginning after conclusion of racing on June 21st, until the conclusion of racing on August 21st 2008.


In addition we award costs of $750.00 to NZTR and $800.00 for the J.C.A.






R M Seabrook



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