Gore HRC 12 August 2021 – R6 (heard 15 August 2021 at Oamaru) – Sarah O’Reilly

ID: RIB4237

Sarah O'Reilly - Junior Driver

Rebecca Haley - Stipendiary Steward for the RIB

Prof Geoff Hall

Persons Present:
Miss Rebecca Haley for the RIB, the Respondent in person with the assistance of Mr Blair Orange, Open Horseman

Information Number:

Decision Type:
Race Related Charge

Careless Driving

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

Not Admitted


Race Date:

Race Club:
Gore Harness Racing Club

Race Location:
Wyndham Racecourse - Alma St, Wyndham, 9892

Race Number:

Hearing Date:

Hearing Location:

Outcome: Proved

Penalty: Awaiting penalty submissions

[1] Information A16501 alleges the Respondent, Ms O’Reilly, at the Gore HRC meeting at Wyndham Raceway on 12 August 2021, drove carelessly when “on the final bend [she] shifted outwards abruptly checking CAST A SHADOW which broke”.

[2] This is an alleged breach of r 869(3)(b) of the NZ Rules of Harness Racing.

[3] The matter was heard before the first race at Kurow TC meeting at Oamaru on 15 August.

[4] Miss Haley identified the Respondent who was positioned on the home turn near the rear of the field driving JODY DIREEN.

[5] Miss O’Reilly then shifted from a 2-wide to a 3-wide position. In so doing, she pushed Mr Kirk Larsen, the driver of CAST A SHADOW, wider on the track.

[6] Miss Haley stated that the Stewards had no issue with this move. However, the Respondent then shifted out abruptly from the 3-wide position and, in so doing, checked Mr Larsen, “badly”.

[7] When questioned, Miss Haley said the Stewards believed Miss O’Reilly had a clear advantage on each occasion to push out, but her second move had not given Mr Larsen sufficient time for him to give her room.

[8] Miss Haley further explained that the Stewards accepted Miss O’Reilly had the right to push Mr Larsen out but not in the abrupt way she had, as she had caused a check and his horse almost fell.

[9] Miss Haley called Mr Larsen as a witness. He gave evidence by way of speaker-phone.

[10] Mr Larsen explained he was one out and he was pushed 3-wide and then even wider. His horse was travelling “okay” at the time.

[11] The wheels of the Respondent’s cart caught the legs of his horse. He said Miss O’Reilly only had a 1/2 neck advantage and he did not get the chance to get out of the way. There was not enough time.

[12] Mr Larsen said he was having no difficulty steering his horse.

[13] Mr Larsen reiterated it was okay for Miss O’Reilly to come out. It was the abruptness of the move that was of concern to him.

[14] When questioned by Mr Orange as to whether his horse was “not steering that good”, Mr Larsen replied it was not a problem, it was not hanging in or out, but the horse did have its head around.

[15] Mr Larsen said the horse was happy to go out and he was trying to steer the horse out to give room, but it was the quickness of Miss O’Reilly’s move that was the problem. Her wheel caught the back of his horse’s legs.

[16] Mr Larsen said he anticipated she would want to come out as her horse was “travelling strong”. He was happy to give her room.

[17] When questioned by the Committee, Mr Larsen was emphatic in stating that the manners of his horse did not contribute to the incident. CAST A SHADOW having its head around was the only issue.

[18] Mr Larsen concluded his evidence by stating the quickness of Miss O’Reilly’s move was what concerned him.

[19] Mr Orange opened Miss O’Reilly’s defence. He stated that she had a clear advantage to move Mr Larsen outwards.

[20] Mr Orange said Mr Larsen had stated that he anticipated Miss O’Reilly would come out and Mr Orange believed Mr Larsen had had time to react. He believed CAST A SHADOW had not responded when Mr Larsen had attempted to give Miss O’Reilly room. He said Mr Larsen had not accepted the pushout.

[21] The key point of Mr Orange’s defence was that Miss O’Reilly’s movement was not abrupt. He believed there was the same flow when she moved from 2 to 3 and 3 to 4-wide. There was no more sharpness in the latter move than in the earlier move. He believed she had more of an advantage with respect to the latter move, about 3/4 of a length. Mr Larsen should have gone with the flow. He also thought Miss O’Reilly’s horse might have been hanging out “a touch”.

[22] Miss O’Reilly said Mr Orange had said it all. She had shifted out at the same speed the whole time. She was pushing Mr Larsen out as best she could. She had the advantage, and she had the right to do this.

[23] Miss Haley questioned Miss O’Reilly as to whether it was one move or two. She pointed out that the Respondent was on the back of Mr Morrison for some distance. Mr Orange replied and said that Miss O’Reilly had never paused on Mr Morrison’s back. She had just angled across him.

Summing up

[24] Miss Haley said the onus on Miss O’Reilly was to push out safely in a manner that does not cause interference. The movement should be in a gradual and acceptable manner. Mr Larsen’s evidence was that it was not slow and gradual.

[25] The Stewards believed there were two movements and the quickness of the latter meant it was not done with safety as it almost caused CAST A SHADOW to fall to the track.

[26] Mr Orange said there was just one sweeping movement, and it was all at the same speed. It was safe and gradual. Mr Larsen had said he anticipated it, so how could he say he did not have time to react.

[27] Miss O’Reilly said Mr Larsen was pulling the cords on his horse at the time. He had had time to react.

[28] Mr Orange concluded by saying there was no safety issue despite the fact CAST A SHADOW almost fell. Mr Larsen was to blame. He had gone to move, and his horse had hung in “a touch” and had not reacted to his urging.

Decision as to breach

[29] Miss O’Reilly had the right to push Mr Larsen out as she had an advantage over him. It is difficult if not impossible to tell the extent of this from the various video angles, but the key point is that both parties accept she had an advantage and Mr Larsen’s evidence is to this effect also.

[30] Rule 868(7) provides that from the 1000 metres all drivers are expected “to make moves, with safety, to ensure the horse obtains the best possible place in the field.”

[31] The issue then is whether Miss O’Reilly pushed out Mr Larsen in a safe manner; ie has she moved “with safety”. Mr Larsen has stated in his evidence that while he anticipated she would push him out, she shifted with such speed that he was not able to respond in time. His horse suffered interference and almost fell to the track.

[32] The outwards movement has commenced just as the horses are rounding the bend. Mr Larsen has been shifted from 3 to 4-wide. It is the shift from 4-wide to 5-wide that is of concern. Mr Larsen has pulled the plugs, and, while CAST A SHADOW’s head is turned slightly, there is no evidence that the horse was hanging and contributed to the contact. Mr Larsen’s evidence is clear that the horse was not giving him any steering issues.

[33] The Stewards are of the view that Miss O’Reilly’s movement was too quick and thus it was not done with safety. Mr Orange believes it was not abrupt and that Mr Larsen had time to shift outwards and did not do so either because he was not prepared to be pushed out further or because his horse, which was hanging in a touch, did not respond. The evidence of Mr Larsen is to the effect that neither of Mr Orange’s assertions is correct. They were clearly put to him by Mr Orange in cross-examination, and each was emphatically denied.

[34] There is a dispute as to whether there was one or two moves. This is far from being the determinative issue, although Miss O’Reilly views its significance as demonstrating there was no change in the speed with which she shifted wider on the track. Whether or not Miss O’Reilly did pause briefly on Mr Morrison’s back (and it does appear from one video angle that she has steadied her horse for a few strides), the issue is whether she pushed Mr Larsen from 4 to 5-wide with such speed that it could not be said to have been done with safety. This is the key consideration.

[35] The Committee has viewed the various angles and has considered the evidence of Mr Larsen, who is a very experienced horseman. The outwards movement of Miss O’Reilly is too quick. She has shifted outwards in such a manner that the wheel of her cart was going to come into contact with the legs of Mr Larsen’s horse, unless he responded immediately. His evidence that he did not have time to shift his horse wider on the track before contact was made is accepted.

[36] The Committee accepts Mr Orange’s submission that the movement is not abrupt, but it is of the view that from the point where Miss O’Reilly is racing behind Mr Morrison right on the point of the bend, she does shift out and into the running line of CAST A SHADOW with such speed that Mr Larsen is unable to shift his horse wider before contact is made with the legs of his horse by Miss O’Reilly’s cart; ie he is not given sufficient time to shift CAST A SHADOW wider on the track to avoid contact with Miss O’Reilly.

[37] In these circumstances it cannot be said that the movement was made with the safety that is required by r 868(7). Miss O’Reilly has interfered with the progress of CAST A SHADOW which was checked and broke. The breach of r 869(3)(b) is found to be proved.

[38] The Committee requires written penalty submissions. Because of the Covid lockdown, these time frames will be generous. The Informant is to file their submissions by 4 pm Thursday 26 August and the Respondent her submissions by 4 pm Wednesday 1 September 2021.

Dated at Dunedin this 20th day of August 2021.

Geoff Hall, Chairman

Decision Date: 20/08/2021

Publish Date: 23/08/2021