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NZ Metro TC 28 August 2020 - R 1 - Chair, Mr D Anderson

Created on 31 August 2020

DAnderson (chair)
Mr C DeFilippi - Open Driver
Mr S Thornley - Junior Driver and witness for Mr DeFilippi
Mr P Williams - Stipendiary Steward
Mr S Renault - Stipendiary Steward
Mr N Ydgren - Chief Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
Improper Driving

Following the running of Race 1 an Information was filed by Chief Stipendiary Steward Mr N Ydgren alleging a breach of Rule 869(3)(f) by Open Driver Mr C DeFilippi. The information alleged, “Driver C DeFilippi drove improperly racing into the first bend when restraining your drive and allowing the parked ROYAL PRIDE to shift into the trail”.

Mr DeFilippi had signed the information stating he did not admit the breach which he confirmed to the Committee. Mr DeFilippi confirmed he understood the rule he was being charged with.

Rule 869(3)(f) provides as follows:

(3) No horseman shall in any race shall drive: -

(f) Improperly.

Submission For Decision:

Mr Ydgren showed the race film and identified LEAF STRIDE (M Williamson), ROYAL PRIDE (S Thornley) and SPOT THE GAMBLE (C DeFilippi). He pointed to both LEAF STRIDE drawn 1 and ROYAL PRIDE drawn 2 beginning fast from the mobile start 1980 metre race and vying for the lead. He showed Mr DeFilippi who was drawn outside ROYAL PRIDE, in barrier position 4, ease his horse and direct it towards the markers. Mr Ydgren showed at this point Mr DeFilippi slap his horse once with the right rein. He then pointed to SPOT THE GAMBLE respond and trot strongly and fluently into the trail behind LEAF STRIDE.

Mr Ydgren then pointed to Mr Thornley, who after approximately 200 metres, had given up on his challenge for the lead, ease his horse and look to his inside. At this juncture he showed Mr DeFilippi take hold of his horse. Mr Ydgren demonstrated on the film Mr DeFilippi changing from driving forward to sitting up and taking hold and pointed to SPOT THE GAMBLE lift its head and respond by coming back to Mr DeFilippi. He said this allowed ROYAL PRIDE the room to slot down into the trail behind LEAF STRIDE.

Mr Ydgren said this was clearly a breach of the Rule in that Mr DeFilippi had driven to assist another horse, ROYAL PRIDE, being a stablemate of his drive SPOT THE GAMBLE.

Mr DeFilippi stated SPOT THE GAMBLE was an inexperienced horse with traits that made her a difficult drive. He said when he had taken up his position on the markers, LEAF STRIDE was a cart and a bit away from the markers and demonstrated this on the video. He said this fact gave a good opportunity for ROYAL PRIDE to manoeuvre on to LEAF STRIDE’s back. He said at this stage he thought it prudent to take a conservative approach as Mr Thornley’s driving record showed he wouldn’t be frightened to drive into a half gap. He said it was better to pull back and not get squashed and keep his horse trotting.

Mr DeFilippi said he had assessed his horse was 5th or 6th best in the race and it wasn’t going to make any difference whether he was in the trail or 3 back.

Mr DeFilippi requested for Mr Thornley to appear as his witness. He asked Mr Thornley to give an outline of SPOT THE GAMBLE’s racing manners as he had driven the horse at trials and workouts and as an employee of the Trainer had an intimate knowledge of the horse. Mr Thornley gave an in-depth assessment of the horse’s virtues and flaws including showing a previous race start. These examples were too numerous to record in this decision but the Committee acknowledged that SPOT THE GAMBLE may have issues.

Mr Ydgren asked Mr Thornley was it his intention if he couldn’t find the front to ease and take the trail behind LEAF STRIDE. Mr Thornley said yes if there was a gap but if not, he intended to sit in the parked position and perhaps have a go at the lead a bit further on in the race.

Mr Ydgren then directed Mr Thornley’s attention to the video and asked him to point to where and when there was enough room to shift into the trail and at what stage Mr DeFilippi was and wasn’t established in the trailing position.

Mr Thornley was very hesitant and guarded in answering these questions to the extent Mr Ydgren said, there was no point continuing the line of questioning.

Mr Ydgren then refreshed Mr Thornley’s memory about his statement earlier that if SPOT THE GAMBLE was hit or slapped, the horse would immediately pull up, and if this was so, could he please explain how after Mr DeFilippi slapped the horse, she responded by trotting strongly and fluently into a position behind the leader.

Mr Thornley didn’t answer the question and at this stage Mr Ydgren advised the Committee he didn’t require Mr Thornley for further questioning.

Mr Ydgren in summing up said Mr DeFilippi, in the early stage of the race, has encouraged his horse into the trail behind the $1.40 favourite and probable leader of the race, as would be expected of any driver, being the most preferred position. He said the Stewards submit Mr DeFilippi has then restrained his horse when the stablemate is positioned to his outside creating a gap behind the lead horse and therefore in breach of rule 869 (3) (f) improper driving.

Mr DeFilippi in summing up said he agreed with Mr Ydgren’s statement except that his horse’s record is not good or it’s manners and this is was why he took a conservative approach. He said “it wasn’t going to make a difference to my position but it might have made a difference to the horse that ran second, ROYAL PRIDE, but it wasn’t going to make a difference to my position at the finish”.

Mr DeFilippi said his first obligation was to get around in one piece and that in conjunction with the horse’s manners, was why he restrained his horse not because the stablemate was likely to be parked in the race.

Reasons For Decision:

The Committee carefully considered all the evidence, submissions and the video footage. Mr DeFilippi’s main defence of the charge was SPOT THE GAMBLE’s lack of manners and poor tractability which he said compelled him to drive conservatively. The Committee accepts SPOT THE GAMBLE can at times be a difficult drive but the video clearly shows when asked to improve into the trail of the leader she has trotted flawlessly and with purpose.

Mr DeFilippi’s witness Mr Thornley, although knowledgeable about SPOT THE GAMBLE’s past and present tendencies failed to convince the Committee that any such tendencies were relevant to the first 400 metres of the race in question. His answers to questions from Mr Ydgren and the Committee could not be correlated with what was blatantly clear on the films and were vague and not credible.

Mr DeFilippi had secured the best possible position behind a dominating favourite who was expected to lead and win and, in the event, led for the entire race and won comfortably. He has clearly taken hold and eased SPOT THE GAMBLE and allowed ROYAL PRIDE, its stablemate, to take the best position in the race where SPOT THE GAMBLE had been established.

It is the opinion of the Committee Mr DeFilippi has driven in a manner that could be expected and is commonplace at trials and workouts but certainly not in the competitive environment of a race day.

The Committee is satisfied that Mr DeFilippi has driven improperly.

For these reasons we find the charge proved.


The Committee found the charge proved.

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Ydgren said the Penalty Guide had a starting point of a 25-drive suspension with no provision for a fine. He said Mr DeFilippi has had 12 drives this season, 162 last season and 187 the previous and as expected has a clear record under the rule. He said Mr DeFilippi has driven 21 times at the last 10 race meetings, an average of 2.1 drives per meeting.

Mr Ydgren said this is a serious rule and what the Stewards are alleging is an act which is perceptively damaging to the look of Harness Racing. He said effectively the Stewards are saying Mr DeFilippi has driven to assist another runner which is why the rule carries such a strong penalty starting point. He said there is one recent and relevant breach to compare, resulting in a 5-day suspension which related to 20 drives. He said the Stewards are asking for a suspension in the 20 to 25 drive range.

Mr DeFilippi said he accepted Mr Ydgren’s submissions on penalty and had nothing to add to them. He said he was disappointed being charged with this rule.

Reasons For Penalty:

The JCA Penalty Guide provides a 25- drive suspension starting point for a breach of this rule.

The Committee considers it fair and reasonable to assess that Mr DeFilippi, with an increase in racing in the coming months, will add to his number of drives per meeting.

Mr DeFilippi’s driving record spans many thousands of drives and is closing in on 50 years as a premier driver without a breach of this rule, which we consider a mitigating factor.

The Committee is convinced that Mr DeFilippi’s actions were not sinister or premeditated but rather a spur of the moment, split second decision and consider there were no aggravating factors to uplift the penalty.

Taking into account all factors outlined, it was our opinion that a 7-day / 21 drive suspension is an appropriate penalty in this case.

Deferment of suspension was offered but declined by Mr DeFilippi.


Accordingly, Mr DeFilippi’s Open Drivers licence is suspended from the close of racing on the 30 August 2020 up to and including racing on the 25 September 2020.

Meetings encompassed in this suspension are:

NZMTC    4 Sept 20
NZMTC    6 Sept 20
NZMTC   11 Sept 20
Methven 13 Sept 20
NZMTC   17 Sept 20
Oamaru  20 Sept 20
NZMTC   25 Sept 20

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