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Non Raceday Inquiry - M J Walker 28 March 09




HEARING: Saturday 28th March 2009 at Awapuni Racecourse

Information number 175 alleging a breach of Rule 304 was lodged by Mr Reid Sanders, Chief Stipendiary Steward.  A letter signed by the Chief Executive of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing confirmed the authority to prosecute.

The charge against Mr Michael Walker read as follows:

THAT you, Michael John Walker were guilty of misconduct when on Wednesday 18th March 2009 at a meeting of the Taranaki Racing Club at New Plymouth you used insulting and threatening language directed at licensed jockey Lee Callaway. Such alleged offending occurring in the weighing area following the running of race 5.

 



IN THE MATTER OF THE NEW ZEALAND RULES OF RACING


 BETWEEN Mr Reid Sanders
   Informant

 AND  Michael Walker
   Defendant

HEARING: Saturday 28th March 2009 at Awapuni Racecourse

JUDICIAL COMMITTEE: Ms N Moffatt (Chair)
 Mr T Castles

IN ATTENDANCE: Mr M Walker
 Mr R Sanders


Information number 175 alleging a breach of Rule 304 was lodged by Mr Reid Sanders, Chief Stipendiary Steward.  A letter signed by the Chief Executive of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing confirmed the authority to prosecute.

The charge against Mr Michael Walker read as follows:

THAT you, Michael John Walker were guilty of misconduct when on Wednesday 18th March 2009 at a meeting of the Taranaki Racing Club at New Plymouth you used insulting and threatening language directed at licensed jockey Lee Callaway. Such alleged offending occurring in the weighing area following the running of race 5.

Rule 304 reads:
“Every holder of any license or permit or certificate or registration mentioned in the last preceding Rule, and every owner, owner-trainer, stablehand, unlicensed apprentice, racing manager or official or employee of any Club who misconducts himself in any way commits a breach of these Rules.”

Mr Walker admitted the breach.


SUMMARY OF FACTS

An incident occurred on Wednesday 18th March 2009 at the Taranaki Racing Club at Pukekura Raceway in New Plymouth.

Following the running of Race 5 the Stewards began an investigation into interference suffered by a number of horses in the race. Mr Walker’s mount Hayerdhal had been checked in the incident and lost ground.  Several riders, including Mr Michael Walker and Mr Lee Callaway, were questioned and shown films of the incident.


Following questioning the riders vacated the judicial room to return to the jockeys’ room. The Clerk of the Scales (Mr Warren Coombes) then witnessed an altercation between Mr Walker and Mr Callaway in the weighing area.  Mr Coombes made a statement stating that Mr Walker approached Mr Callaway and used insulting, threatening and foul language towards him.  He intervened physically by standing between the two riders and guided them back to the jockeys’ room.
Mr Callaway’s statement was very similar to the events outlined by Mr Coombes.

PENALTY SUBMISSIONS

Mr. Sanders said that once Mr. Walker was issued with the charge he cooperated fully with the Stewards and readily admitted the incident showing a great deal of remorse for his actions. He said that Mr Walker, being a leading rider, understands he is a role model for other riders and that his conduct was unacceptable.
While there was no physical contact between the two Mr Sanders told the committee that conduct such as this would not be tolerated and that a strong message should be sent to the industry to this effect.

He submitted that a suitable penalty would be in the range of $1500.00 to $2500.00.

Mr Walker admitted that his actions had been very unprofessional and he deeply regretted what had occurred.  He became angry and frustrated after viewing the film and took the matter into his own hands despite Mr Callaway being dealt with by the Stipendiary Stewards.  He had been particularly concerned that any fall could exacerbate head injuries he suffered a year ago.  Mr Walker also informed the committee that anger is a recognised side effect of head injuries.  Mr Walker said that he had rung Mr Callaway’s cell phone and left a message of apology however he would apologise in person when he next saw him.

 

PENALTY

In coming to a decision on penalty the committee had careful consideration to all of the submissions.  We took into account Mr Walker’s admittance of the breach, his genuine remorse and the apology offered to Mr Callaway.

We also note the ongoing issues that Mr Walker is dealing with as a result of his accident in May last year.  While these may mitigate his actions to a degree Mr Walker is a very public figure and his conduct was unacceptable and unbecoming.

He is fined the sum of $2000.00.

As this matter was heard on a race day there is no order for costs in this case.

 

N Moffatt T Castles
Chair
                    

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