Akaroa TC 2 December 2023 – R11 – Sarah O’Reilly

ID: RIB30453

Sarah O'Reilly - Junior Driver

Steve Mulcay, Senior Stipendiary Steward

Russell McKenzie

Information Number:

Decision Type:
Race Related Charge

Careless Driving Striking a Wheel

869(3)(b) - Riding/driving infringement

Not Admitted

Animal Name:


Race Date:

Race Club:
Akaroa Trotting Club

Race Location:
Motukarara Racecourse - 43 Duck Pond Road, Motukarara, 7672

Race Number:

Hearing Date:

Hearing Location:
Motukarara Raceway, Motukarara

Outcome: Proved

Penalty: Junior Driver, Sarah O'Reilly, suspended 2 days


Following the running of Race 11, Rangiora Equine Services F&M Mobile Pace, Junior Driver, Sarah O’Reilly, denied a charge of careless driving in that, as the Driver of FLYAWAY in the race, she “drove carelessly when striking the wheel of JUST FOLLOW ME (Devon van Til) in the run home.

Rule 896 provides as follows:

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

       (b)  carelessly.


Senior Stipendiary Steward, Steve Mulcay, showed the available video replays of the incident, as the field turned into the final straight. He pointed out, just before the turn, JUST FOLLOW ME leading the field against the markers, but beginning to give ground. FLYAWAY, driven by the Respondent was trailing that runner.

Mr Mulcay showed that, just before the turn, the Respondent attempted to ease out off the back of the leader, but AMELIA ROSE (Kerry Hadfield), racing to her outside, was able to maintain its position. The Respondent then directed her mare back down onto the back of JUST FOLLOW ME, he said.

Upon reaching the entrance to the passing lane, Mr Mulcay said, the Respondent has turned her mare in to take the run but, in doing so, has contacted the inside sulky wheel of JUST FOLLOW ME, puncturing the tyre, which came away from the rim over the final stages. The contact had no impact on the Respondent’s runner, Mr Mulcay said. JUST FOLLOW ME was under pressure at that stage, and it is unlikely that the incident affected its chances, he said.

Mr Mulcay conceded that the contact was difficult to see on the video replay, but Ms van Til had confirmed to Stewards that the wheel was struck upon reaching the passing lane. He submitted that it was likely that FLYAWAY had contacted her sulky wheel at that point, as JUST FOLLOW ME had come to the end of its run. FLYAWAY did not appear to falter in its stride and the contact was minimal, Mr Mulcay said. It was an error of judgment on the Respondent’s part, he said, which resulted in contact being made.

The Respondent said that, at the 400 metres, her horse began to overrace as the leader, JUST FOLLOW ME, had come to the end of its run. She tried to come away from the markers but was unable to do so, and had to come back down onto Ms van Til’s back and go up the passing lane. Ms van Til’s runner had come back “into the face” of her horse, which was overracing. She was not aware of any contact having been made.

The Respondent concluded by saying her horse was overracing and she was trying to get a gap to avoid running into the back of Ms van Til. Mr Mulcay accepted that FLYAWAY was racing “keenly” but, he submitted, not proving unduly difficult and certainly not “uncontrollable”.


The charge was found proved.


In reaching the finding that the Respondent had struck the wheel of Ms van Til’s runner and, therefore, that the charge was proved, the Adjudicative Committee has considered a number of matters.

Firstly, the statement by Ms van Til to Stewards that she sustained a punctured sulky tyre upon turning into the final straight. The tyre eventually came away from the wheel rim.

Secondly, the video evidence supported that it was a result of being struck from behind by the Respondent’s runner. The contact was obviously slight, as the video replay did not show any actual contact, nor did FLYAWAY falter in its stride at that point. However, the video replay did show the Respondent shifting ground at that point, and there is no other explanation for what happened.

Finally, and significantly, the Respondent did not contend that she had not struck the tyre as alleged. Her defence was, essentially, that her horse was overracing and, in shifting ground, she was anxious to avoid running into the back of Ms van Til. In response to this, Mr Mulcay said that, while he accepted that FLYAWAY was racing keenly, it did not appear to be be proving a difficult drive and, by no means, uncontrollable.

There is an obligation on a Driver shifting ground to do so with due care. The Adjudicative Committee is satisfied that the Respondent has been guilty of a slight misjudgment and, in shifting inwards to take the passing lane a stride or two before she was safely able to, her runner has made contact, albeit slight, with the tyre of Ms van Til’s sulky wheel with the consequences that followed and, in doing so, has driven carelessly.


Mr Mulcay said that the Respondent has a previous breach under the Careless Driving Rule – at Winton on 26 October (striking a wheel, fined $300). He referred to the Penalty Guide starting point for a second breach of careless driving striking a wheel of a 3-days suspension.

The Respondent has had 652 drives this season, 2,409 in her career, and is a very active Junior Driver.

Stewards recognised that there were some mitigating factors and Stewards were submitting that a 2-days suspension would be appropriate.

The Respondent sought a deferment until after racing at Methven TC on 3 December, at which  meeting she had engagements.


The RIB Harness Racing Penalty Guide (February 2023) provides a starting point for penalty for a second careless driving breach of striking a wheel, of a 3-days suspension. That is for a mid-range breach. This breach is low-level and, in the Adjudicative Committee’s view, there were no consequences. Ms van Til’s runner had appeared to have run its race.

Although this a second breach, it is fair to say that the Respondent’s record is an excellent one, having regard to the number of drives. Having regard to that factor and the fact that, as the Adjudicative Committee finds, it was a minor error of judgement on her part with no consequences, a 2-days suspension is the appropriate penalty.


Junior Driver, Sarah O’Reilly, is suspended from after the conclusion of racing on 3 December 2023, up to and including 9 December 2023 – 2 days.

Decision Date: 02/12/2023

Publish Date: 04/12/2023