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Wanganui JC 4 July 2019 – R 1 - Chair, Mrs N Moffatt

Created on 09 July 2019

NMoffatt (chair)
Mr N Downs - Class D Rider
Mr J Oatham - Chief Stipendiary Steward
Mr D Balcombe - Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
Excessive use of whip

Following Race 1 (Alsco Maiden Highweight 2050) Mr Balcombe lodged an information with the Judicial Committee alleging a breach of Rule 638 (3) (b) (ii) in that N Downs used his whip excessively prior to the 100m without the necessary respite.

Mr Oatham showed the videos of the race from the top of the straight up to the 100m mark. Over this period Mr Oatham calculated Mr Downs struck his mount 15 times with a period of only three strides respite. Mr Downs won the race.

Mr Downs agreed with Mr Oatham’s assessment saying he had hit his horse “too much”.


As Mr Downs admitted the breach the charge was deemed proved.

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Balcombe read out Mr Downs’ record in respect to the whip rule:

29/5/19     Waikato       $300
3/6/19       Auckland     $600

Mr Balcombe described today’s breach as above midrange, and the Stewards’ submission was for a period of suspension. In response to a question from the Chair, Mr Balcombe said Mr Downs' use of the whip was reasonably forceful but not anything out of the ordinary.

Mr Downs said he was trying to rectify his riding style but was having difficulty with the respite part. He said, without the whip, his horse would have stopped today in the heavy ground.

Mr Downs mentioned the lack of highweight/jumps riders and asked if any penalty could be dealt with by way of a fine instead of a suspension. He said he had already booked flights down to Timaru on Friday 12th July.

Reasons For Penalty:

The Penalty Guide for Judicial Committees provides the following starting points for breaches of Rule 638(3) (b) (ii):

1st breach                               $300
2nd breach                              $500
3rd or subsequent breach        6-8 national riding days

In determining penalty, the Committee considered all submissions.

We firstly considered Mr Downs' status as a Class D rider. It is generally accepted by Judicial Committees that, due to limited riding opportunities, the Penalty Guidelines be adjusted downwards to reflect the shorter riding season. In the case of Mr Fannin (May 2019), when facing his third charge in 12 months, the Committee adopted a starting point of four days. We believed it was appropriate to take the same approach today.

We identified several aggravating factors.

The Committee's observation of how many times Mr Downs used his whip led us to the opinion that 15 strikes was a conservative number. His continual use of the whip for most of the final straight, clearly demonstrated that Mr Downs did not, at any time, attempt to use the whip within the well-publicised whip guidelines (5-on/5-off). We considered the breach to be high-end.

Mr Downs' actions were highlighted by his leading position in the race, and with animal welfare a core concern of horse-racing and whip rules currently being reviewed around the world, a rider hitting their mount over the length of the straight is detrimental to the NZ racing industry.

Mr Downs breached the guidelines by quite some margin and won the race. We do not accept that heavy track conditions provide any excuse for excessive whip use.

Finally, Mr Downs' record is of concern to this Committee. Today’s breach was his third in just 6 weeks. The penalty guidelines provide a stepped approach for setting penalty with the consequences for repeat offending rising considerably. It appears that, in Mr Downs' case, previous penalties have not acted as a sufficient deterrent. A fine instead of suspension was not appropriate in this situation.

There were no mitigating factors.

Balancing up all factors, it was our opinion that a 7-day suspension was an appropriate penalty. (The 7 days incorporate only jumping/highweight meetings with two of these being premier jump days).


 Accordingly, Mr Downs is suspended from the close of riding on Sunday, July 7th up to and including racing on Wednesday, August 7th.

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