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

ID: RIB4272

Sarah O'Reilly - Junior Driver

Rebecca Haley - Stipendiary Steward for the RIB

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


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: Junior Driver Sarah O'Reilly is suspended for 2 meetings

[1] In the Committee’s decision of 20 August, the allegation in Information A16501 that Miss O’Reilly, at the Gore HRC meeting at Wyndham Raceway on 12 August 2021, drove carelessly when shifting outwards on the home bend checking CAST A SHADOW which broke, was found to be proved.

[2] This is a breach of r 869(3)(b) of the NZ Rules of Harness Racing (careless driving).

[3] The Committee called for and has received written penalty submissions from the parties.

Informant’s submissions

[4] Miss Haley stated that Miss O’Reilly has had 969 lifetime drives; this season, 453, and last season, 243. She described Miss O’Reilly as an experienced and busy Junior Driver who drives at all South Island meetings. Statistics compiled by the RIB showed that she averaged approximately 3 drives per meeting.

[5] The Penalty Guide for the Adjudicative Committee references a starting point for a breach of r 869(3)(b) as a 10-drive suspension or a $500 fine.

[6] The Stewards submitted that a period of suspension was an appropriate form of sanction as had been the case for all careless driving charges when shifting ground.

[7] The aggravating factors were that Miss O’Reilly’s actions caused Mr Larsen’s horse CAST A SHADOW to be heavily checked and nearly fall to the track. The issue of safety was present for both horse and Driver.

[8] The Stewards believed Miss O’Reilly’s actions to be at a high range level of carelessness and therefore warranted an uplift in penalty from the starting point.

[9] The only mitigating factor was that Miss O’Reilly has a clear record.

[10] Miss Haley submitted that a 5-day suspension was appropriate after considering all of the aggravating factors, and a discount of one day for Miss O’Reilly’s good record.

Respondent’s submissions

[11] Miss O’Reilly stated she was a Junior Driver who drives at every South Island meeting and occasionally in the North Island (Manawatu). While the Stewards believed that she averaged 3 drives a meeting, she believed in recent times she had been gaining more drives per meeting, eg 4-5.

[12] Miss O’Reilly accepted that the starting point for a breach of r 896(3)(b) is a 10-drive suspension or a $500 fine. She believed her actions were on the lower end of the scale and stated she had “a great record”, and was “not constantly being charged for any Rules, especially careless.”

[13] The Stewards had put forward a 5-day suspension, with a discount of one day. Miss O’Reilly was unsure how this starting point of 5 days was found, when the Stewards had averaged her at 3 drives a meeting and when it was a 10-drive suspension. She believed it was fair for a starting point of 3 days and a one-day discount.

[14] Miss O’Reilly stated she had defended the charge upon advice from the country’s leading Driver.

[15] Miss O’Reilly reminded the Committee that she was a Junior Driver and she believed that she needed to stay on the racetrack, rather than off it. This was for two reasons: (1) for experience, as she was not learning anything by sitting on the sideline; and (2) she needed to try to keep the drives she had, or she risked losing them.

[16] Miss O’Reilly emphasised she had already lost 3 meetings from Covid. She had suffered loss of income from this and now would be losing more meetings, which would be devastating.

[17] Miss O’Reilly concluded her submission by asking that the Committee consider a fine as well, as she would lose a lot of drives in the coming weeks, such as SUGAR ME, and SANTANA MACH who was racing in the Cup lead up races and that would be a huge loss if she could not drive him. A fine and suspension would lighten the days off the track. While a fine was the preferred option, if it was a suspension, then she would like to start this as soon as possible, with Monday 30 August Rangiora, then moving on to Winton as the second day, etc.


[18] The Committee views the breach as a little above mid-range. Miss O’Reilly shifted out too quickly and checked Mr Larsen. He suffered interference and his horse came close to falling. His chances were extinguished. The Committee accepts Miss Haley’s submission that an uplift is appropriate and raises the starting point to 13 drives.

[19] The Committee does not believe a fine is appropriate either by way of a combination with a suspension, or in its own right. The appropriate penalty having regard to the circumstances of the breach, is a suspension.

[20] With respect to record, the Stewards have submitted it is clear under this Rule. Miss O’Reilly’s very good record and her status as a Junior Driver merits a 4-drive reduction in the starting point. The Committee accepts Miss O’Reilly’s submission that she is driving more frequently in recent times and is aware that she is a very successful Junior Driver.

[21] The Committee factors in the current Covid situation, as best it can, having regard to the uncertainty that surrounds it. It does so in two respects. Miss O’Reilly’s driving opportunities and thus her income, like that of all Industry participants, has been adversely affected. Secondly, once racing recommences it likely that full cards (with respect to both the number of races and size of the field) will be the norm as connections will be anxious that their horses get back on to the racetrack as soon as possible. (Indeed, the next scheduled meeting, 29 August, is evidence of this.)

[22] The Committee is of the view, were it not for Covid, a 3-meeting suspension would be appropriate. However, having regard to the matters described in the previous paragraph, the Committee is prepared to base its penalty calculation on a figure of 4 to 5 drives per meeting.

[23] A 4-drive reduction from a 13-drive starting point, leaves a penalty of 9 drives. On the 4 to 5 drives per meeting calculation, this penalty equates to a 2-meeting suspension.

[24] This penalty encompasses the first 2 South Island meetings once the Covid restrictions are lifted, and racing recommences. It is not possible at this time to identify these meetings. If the meeting scheduled for Sunday 29 August is held, as Miss O’Reilly already has a number of confirmed drives at that meeting, it will commence at the conclusion of that meeting. If there is any uncertainty as to the commencement of the suspension, the parties are given leave to approach the Committee with respect to a further determination on this issue.

[25] The matter was heard on raceday and, although time was taken for deliberation and a reserved decision was delivered, there is no award of costs.

Dated at Dunedin this 26th day of August 2021.
Geoff Hall, Chairman

Decision Date: 26/08/2021

Publish Date: 27/08/2021