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30 Apr 2021
Auckland-Tc - R7

Auckland TC 30 April 2021 – R 7 – Chair, Mr G Jones

Created on 02 May 2021

Committee:
GJones (chair)
AGodsalve
Name(s):
Mr M Purdon - Licensed Open Driver (OSCAR BONAVENA)
Mr V Munro - Stipendiary Steward
Informant
Mr N Ydgren - Chief Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
A12991
Plea:
Admitted
Charge:
Contravention of the Use of the Whip Regulations
Evidence:

This charge arises from the running of Race 7, the 2021 ‘What the Hill’ Rowe Trot Cup (G1) 3200m. An Information was filed by Chief Stipendiary Steward, Mr Ydgren, alleging Open Driver, Mr M Purdon (OSCAR BONAVENA), “used his whip with free of the rein near the 250-metre mark”.

Rule 869 provides that:
(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 Whip and Rein Regulations provides as follows:

3.1 A driver may only apply the whip in a wrist only flicking motion whilst holding a rein in each hand with the tip of the whip pointed forward in an action which does not engage the shoulder; and 
4.5 A driver must drive throughout the race with a hand on each rein.

Mr Purdon admitted the breach and he endorsed the information accordingly. He was present at the hearing.

Stipendiary Steward, Mr Munro used available video footage to demonstrate the breach. He pointed out that as the field entered the home straight OSCAR BONAVENA driven by Mr Purdon was trailing TEMPORALE and Mr Purdon activated OSCAR BONAVENA'S gear. He then turned his whip and applied one strike whilst his (right) hand was free of the rein. Mr Munro said that OSCAR BONAVENA finished in 5th place.

In response, Mr Purdon advised the Committee that he freely admits the breach. He said that OSACAR BONAVENA was “hanging in and it was at the business end of the race”. He added that he was following TEMPORALE into the race and he “turned his whip and just gave him one strike”. In response to a question from the Committee Mr Purdon agreed that the one strike was the result of a temporary lapse of concentration on his part.

Decision:

The charge is admitted and therefore proved.

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Ydgren said that Mr Purdon has a clear record with no previous breaches of the whip Rule within the reset period. He said that the starting point for a breach in a Group 1 race is a 7-day suspension. In his submissions, he highlighted the following matters:
1. That there are no aggravating factors.
2. That in finishing in 5th place Mr Purdon or the horse's Connections received no benefit as a result of the one strike as there was a clear length back to the 6th placed horse.
3. That Mr Purdon has had 125 drives this season without a charge and his overall record is excellent.
4. That the breach is at the low end of the scale.
5. That Mr Purdon admitted the breach immediately and he was forthright is his dealings with Stewards in relation to the matter.

Mr Ydgren added that upcoming meetings Mr Purdon would most likely drive at in the immediate future include:
7/05/21 ATC or NZ Metro
9/05/21 Rangiora
11/05/21 NZ Metro
13/05/21 ATC (Feature meeting / Trotting Oaks)
14/05/21 NZ Metro (Premier meeting)

In response Mr Purdon submitted that he was not seeking a deferment to any proposed suspension and therefore he could commence a suspension immediately. He said that he does not drive as regularly as he once did, but is always available to take drives at Premier and Feature meetings. He said that he would like any proposed suspension to conclude prior to the Auckland Meeting on 13 May 2021 so that he could take a drive in the Trotting Oaks which is being run on that night. In addition, he said that the breach was at the low end of the scale and a 7-day suspension was a big penalty for this type of breach.

Reasons For Penalty:

After reviewing the films and considering the breach the Committee determined Mr Purdon’s whip use to be low level. Further due to the breach consisting of one strike only and coupled with the mitigating factors highlighted by Mr Ydgren; Mr Purdon’s culpability is assessed as being extremely low.

A low-level breach is defined as when a driver inadvertently reverts to the old style (freehand, loose reining and or more than a flicking motion) but promptly takes corrective action to return to a compliant style.

Had this breach occurred in a non-Group race, Mr Purdon, if charged, would have received a fine in the $200 to $400 range (for a first offence). However, for Group 1 races (which this race was), the prescribed starting point is a 7-day suspension. Being satisfied that the breach is low level and that there are no aggravating factors to consider the Committee believes that no uplift to the starting point is required.

Since the revised Whip Regulations came into force in October 2020 there have been 6 charges arising from Group 1 races. They have all resulted in 7-day suspensions and in addition some have attracted fines. We dont believe that the Rule makers ever envisaged that the full 7 days was intended to applied to a breach consisting of one strike of the whip. 

With regards to whip breaches, we have extremely limited discretion to deviate from the Penalty Guide starting points. To deviate from the guide, compelling mitigating factors and/or exceptional circumstances would need to exist. In this case we believe that for a breach of this nature, namely one strike, such circumstances do exist. We are of the opinion that a 7-day suspension is unduly harsh and disproportionate, and, on that basis, we afford Mr Purdon a 2-day reduction from the starting point.

Prior to delivering the penalty Mr Purdon asked if we would consider a fine in lieu of suspension days. We advised him that we did consider this as part of our decision making but after careful consideration dismissed it as an option. Our reasoning was two-fold. First, Mr Purdon wanted his suspension to end by 13 May 2021 so that he could drive at the Auckland meeting. For this to occur his suspension would have amounted to 3 days. We deem 3 days to be manifestly low for a breach that occurred in a Group 1 race. Secondly, the notion the drivers can pay a fine in lieu of suspension days would lead to inequities as some drivers would have the financial means and others may not. The fact of the matter is that this meeting (tonight) consisted of four Group races and all drivers should have been acutely aware of their pending engagements and that any whip breaches will be dealt in accordance with the guidelines. On that basis all drivers, including Mr Purdon would appreciate and understand a breach in this (Group 1) race may render them liable to a penalty with a 7-day suspension as the starting point.

Penalty:

After taking all matters into account Mr Purdon’s Driver’s License is suspended from the conclusion of racing on 30 April 2021 until after racing on 14 May 2021 (5 days).

Note: The suspension does not include the meetings on 1 and 2 May 2021 as driver declarations for those meetings have closed.  

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