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Adjourned hearing RIU v NP Williamson 23 April 2021 - R 10 (heard 2 May 2021 at Invercargill) - Reserved Decision dated 10 May 2021 - Chair, Prof G Hall



869(7A)

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF
THE JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY
IN INVERCARGILL

UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003
AND IN THE MATTER
of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing

BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU)

Informant

AND MR NATHAN WILLIAMSON
Licensed Driver
Respondent

Information No: A13957
Judicial Committee: Prof G Hall, Chairman - Mr P Knowles, Member
Appearing: Miss R Haley, Stipendiary Steward, for the Informant
                  The Respondent in person
Date of hearing: 2 May 2021
Date of reserved decision: 10 May 2021

___________________________________________________________________
RESERVED DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE
___________________________________________________________________

[1] An Information was filed by Stipendiary Steward, Miss Haley, against Mr Williamson, alleging a breach of r 869(7A)(a) and (b) of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing in that “on 23 April 2021 at a race meeting conducted by Winton Harness Racing Club at Winton in Race 10 he allowed his drive to race inside the markers in the home straight, thus obtaining a run he was not entitled to.”

[2] Rule 869(7A) reads: “Every driver who moves inwards shall ensure:
(a) that contact is not made with any track marker
(b) that any part of the sulky does not protrude inside the marker line.”

[3] The charge was heard as a Non-Raceday hearing at the Invercargill Harness Racing Club’s meeting at Invercargill on 2 May 2021.

[4] Mr Williamson indicated on the signed Information that he did not admit the breach and confirmed this at the hearing. He called Mr A Beck, Licensed Driver, as a witness.

Informant’s case

[5] Miss Haley asked Mr Renault, Stipendiary Steward, to demonstrate the alleged breach with reference to the films.

[6] Mr Renault pointed out that Mr Beck was trailing the leading horse, ALL ABOUT THE BASE, into the home straight the final time and he took the passing lane. Mr Renault said Mr Williamson, who was four back and to the inside of Mr Beck, anticipated a run to the inside of Mr Beck and Mr Williamson also went into the passing lane. The passing lane was Mr Beck’s by right as his was the trailing horse.

[7] Mr Renault demonstrated that Mr Williamson went inside two pylons and gained an advantage. As a result, there had been a successful protest on the day.

[8] Mr Renault said there was never a full run for Mr Williamson. He demonstrated that when Mr Williamson went inside Mr Beck, he was close to Mr Beck’s sulky and a pylon but there was no contact. He froze the film and said that only for a split second was there a run for Mr Williamson, and by good luck rather than good management Mr Williamson had avoided both the marker and Mr Beck’s wheel.

[9] Mr Renault stated that the Stewards believed Mr Beck maintained a straight line to the winning post. At one point Mr Beck had the head of his horse turned out to give Mr Williamson room. However, the Stewards believed there was never a run for Mr Williamson. He said there was no pressure on Mr Williamson from Mr Beck.

[10] Miss Haley said that on the day the Committee hearing the protest had found that Mr Williamson had raced inside two pylons free of interference. That Committee did not accept that Mr Beck had contributed to the incident. In response to the questioning from this Committee, she said that the protest Committee had not heard from Mr Beck, just the Stewards and Mr Williamson, and had viewed the films.

Respondent’s case
[11] Mr Williamson said the matter was simply a difference of opinion between him and the Stewards. He believed his horse, IDEALISM, was clear of BLACK OPS, Mr Beck, when he went into the passing lane.

[12] Mr Williamson said BLACK OPS was struggling and he was looking for the opportunity to take the passing lane. BLACK OPS was lugging out around the bend and hence he anticipated a run to its inside. When Mr Beck made his move from the trailing position into the passing lane, he thought there was space for him to obtain a run. He did not expect BLACK OPS to roll down into the passing lane as the horse was struggling and was so far off the leading horse, ALL ABOUT THE BASE.

[13] Mr Williamson said Mr Beck had drifted in. It was minimal. He believed if BLACK OPS had run in a straight line from when he was inside Mr Beck, he would have been okay. There was a run to the finish without contacting the markers and no breach of the Rule. He demonstrated where he believed Mr Beck had straightened his horse to relieve pressure.

[14] Mr Williamson said he accepted that Mr Beck was entitled to the passing lane. Mr Beck, however, did not maintain a dead straight line.

[15] Mr Williamson said when he went in, he thought there was plenty of room. He explained that the passing lane at Winton is wedge-shaped.

[16] Mr Beck gave evidence. He said his horse was under pressure and that Mr Williamson came to his inside. At no point did Mr Williamson yell out to him.

[17] Mr Beck said he believed the passing lane at Winton was constructed wrong. At some points there was enough room for two horses, but then the passing lane narrowed down to not enough room for one horse.

[18] Mr Beck stated there was enough room for Mr Williamson when he shifted inside him. He was okay at the first pylon as there was a gap of a full horse width. He believed BLACK OPS may have drifted out a wee bit at this time, and there was no contact when Mr Williamson came past.

[19] Mr Beck reiterated his concerns with the contours of the track. He said if a horse runs straight in the home straight there is a 2-metre gap at the top of the straight and then nothing at the winning post. All horses will run out of room.

[20] Mr Beck agreed with Mr Williamson’s comment to him that there was room for Mr Williamson at the top of the straight, there was a clear run, and the problem was with the track and the passing lane.

[21] Mr Beck said ALL ABOUT THE BASE had drifted off and he had followed him out a bit. He said Mr Williamson had cleared two pylons when inside of him and the field had got tight generally at the end of the race because of the contours of the track. The contours of the passing lane were the reason for Mr Williamson going over two pylons.

[22] Mr Beck said he thought BLACK OPS had run straight after briefly drifting out at the top of the straight. He later stated that he may have shifted in a foot or so and, if he had, this would have “caused Mr Williamson issues”. He emphasised he could not see any movement from the films as there was no clear head-on.

[23] Mr Beck agreed with Miss Haley that there should be only one horse in the passing lane. He said there was rain on the day and visibility was restricted. He did not realise that Mr Williamson had hit pylons. He believed there was room for a horse to his inside and there was no contact between sulkies. He repeated his concerns with the contours of the track.

[24] Mr Williamson concluded his submission by stating there was clear run for him to the inside of Mr Beck. The fact that the run shut off was not his fault. Mr Beck had said he was not surprised to see a horse to his inside. Mr Williamson said he did not hit a pylon on his way through so there was room. When questioned by the Committee, he said he believed the horses were on about equal terms by the time he hit the first pylon.

[25] Miss Haley asked Mr Williamson whether he was aware of the contours of the track. He said he was, but it was impossible for him to know what would happen 100 metres after he had shifted inside Mr Beck without contacting a marker or Mr Beck.

[26] Mr Williamson said all horses will run in ever so slightly, but that notwithstanding, he did not believe the Mr Beck had caused interference to him. It was the contours of the track.

[27] Mr Williamson acknowledged he anticipated he would get through inside Mr Beck quickly as BLACK OPS was under pressure, but that horse had stuck on.

Summing up
[28] Miss Haley said Mr Williamson had anticipated a run and had continued to drive his horse forward and, in so doing, ran over two pylons. He had obtained a run to which he was not entitled. There was not enough room for more than one horse and the Stewards believed Mr Beck had kept a straight line.

[29] Mr Williamson said he believed there was room and the films showed this.

Decision
[30] Mr Williamson, who was trailing four back, has gone for a run in the passing lane inside Mr Beck. Mr Beck was driving the trailing runner and thus the passing lane was available to him. After briefly drifting out at the top of the straight, Mr Beck has shifted into the passing lane. Mr Williamson has acknowledged that Mr Beck was in the passing lane. However, Mr Williamson was aware that BLACK OPS was struggling and he anticipated there was a run between the markers and Mr Beck’s cart. He took that gap, but then ran out of room and went over two markers.

[31] Significantly, the passing lane is designed to accommodate one horse. Mr Beck was in the passing lane and Mr Williamson decided there was room for two. Initially there was, and Mr Williamson, who is a very experienced driver, did extremely well to position himself briefly to Mr Beck’s inside without touching the markers or Mr Beck’s cart. However, the contours of the passing lane are such that if the first horse into the passing lane remains in the lane, there will not be sufficient room for two horses as they progress towards the winning post. This was what transpired on this occasion. In simple terms, Mr Williamson ran out of track, which caused him to go inside two markers.

[32] Both Mr Williamson and Mr Beck point to the contours of the track as being the reason for the breach. There is some truth to this, although the passing lane at Winton, we were told, does not differ greatly from other passing lanes in that it is wedge shaped. Drivers should be aware that the passing lane narrows as it approaches the winning post.

[33] Mr Williamson has acknowledged that BLACK OPS did not stop as quickly as he had anticipated. Had the horse done so, he could have made his move inside BLACK OPS before running out of room and going over the markers. Once Mr Williamson was to the inside of BLACK OPS and that horse stuck on, there was never going to be enough room for him, as the passing lane was never designed to accommodate two horses.

[34] Our determination of whether or not Mr Beck drifted in slightly is not helped by the poor angle of the head-on film. It is not a true head-on and Mr Williamson may be correct when he says that it shows that he had less room between Mr Beck and the pylons than he actually had. But equally it is clear that Mr Williamson does run out of room. Mr Beck believed that he had run in a straight line, although later in his evidence he said he would only have had to go in a foot or so to cause difficulties for Mr Williamson.

[35] It is not evident to us that Mr Beck has shifted in. He appears to have kept a straight line to the winning post. In our view it is the fact Mr Williamson has not progressed past Mr Beck with the alacrity that he anticipated that has caused him difficulties and led to him running out of room and racing over two pylons.

[36] The passing lane is what it is, and Mr Williamson has to drive so that he remains within the contours of the track and thus within the Rules of Harness Racing. He has not. We thus find the charge proved.

[37] We require written submissions as to penalty. The Informant is to file their submissions with the Executive Officer of the JCA by 3 pm 14 May and the Respondent by 3 pm 20 May 2021.

Dated at Dunedin this 10th day of May 2021.
Geoff Hall, Chairman

 

 

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