GRNZ Request for Review – Reserved Decision dated 13 October 2021 – Craig Rendle
BIG TIME PRADA
Palmerston North Greyhounds
Manawatu Raceway - Pioneer Highway, Palmerston North,
Penalty: Review is successful and the 28 day stand down and satisfactory trial imposed upon BIG TIME PRADA is lifted
RESERVED DECISION OF ADJUDICATIVE COMMITTEE
 The Applicant, Mr C Rendle, a Part-Owner of the Greyhound BIG TIME PRADA, has requested a Review of the Stipendiary Stewards’ decision with respect to Race 10 at a race meeting of the Palmerston North Greyhound Racing Club held on Monday, 13 September 2021 at Palmerston North, where BIG TIME PRADA was stood down for 28 days and to complete a satisfactory trial for Failing to Pursue the Lure. This is an alleged breach of r 55.1(b) of GRNZ Rules of Racing.
 The matter was heard by means of a video-conference on 8 October last.
 Rule 55.1 states:
Where a Greyhound (b) fails to pursue the lure in a race, the Stewards may impose the following periods of suspension:
(c) In the case of a first offence, 28 days and until the completion of a satisfactory trial; or
(d) in the case of a second offence under r 55.1 (which for clarity need not be the same offence as the first offence under that subsection), three (3) months and until the completion of a Satisfactory Trial, or
(e) in the case of a third or subsequent offence, under r 55.1 (which for clarity need not be the same offence as the first offence under that subsection), twelve (12) months and until the completion of a Satisfactory Trial. [Emphasis added.]
 Mr Coppins read the definition of failing to pursue in the Rules. “Fails to Pursue The Lure” is defined in r 1 as “ the action of the Greyhound voluntarily turning the head without making contact with another Greyhound, or voluntarily easing up, or stopping during a Race while free of interference.”
 Mr Coppins, with the assistance of Mr Wallis, played the videos of the race. The Committee viewed the full race and then head-on and side-on videos of the start at normal and slow speed.
 BIG TIME PRADA, which had drawn box one, jumped away very quickly and was in front after a few strides. Shortly after the start BIG TIME PRADA turned her head to the right and thus towards the outside of the track and away from the lure. Mr Rendle described it as “a flick of the head”. Mr Coppins alleged that while he had said “several strides” in his report on the day, he believed after studying the videos carefully, that it was for two and a half strides. Mr Rendle believed it was perhaps a slightly shorter period, perhaps one and a half strides, but did not take further issue with Mr Coppins’ assessment.
 BIG TIME PRADA remained in front of the field and went on to win the race.
 Mr Coppins said in terms of the definition of failing to pursue, BIG TIME PRADA had voluntarily turned her head free of interference. She had not marred.
 Mr Rendle opened his case by referring to there being “hearing” or “sight” Greyhounds. He believed BIG TIME PRADA was the former. He emphasised that the weather on the day was inclement. It was raining hard when the race was being run. He believed BIG TIME PRADA may have turned her head when her attention was drawn by the sound of the rain hitting the fence on the outside of the track. The handler on the day had made this observation to him.
 Mr Rendle said BIG TIME PRADA had won 8 of her 9 starts. She had won this race in a fast time and had beaten good dogs in so doing.
 Mr Rendle also questioned whether BIG TIME PRADA had dipped slightly after jumping and whether this had unbalanced her. Mr Coppins disputed that BIG TIME PRADA had dipped. We played the videos from both head and side-on and could not see that this was the case. Mr Rendle did not push this contention but added that the dog had her head down very low.
 Mr Rendle stated there was no dog near BIG TIME PRADA at the time and he believed there had only been a slight flick of her head. He referred the Committee to the decision in ECKLES (5 November 2015) where the Committee, on a review of the decision of the Stipendiary Stewards, said at -:
The Committee was satisfied, after having viewed the replays and heard the submissions of the parties, that considerable uncertainty does clearly exist in this particular case and, that being the case, the greyhound should receive the benefit of the doubt. We cannot read the dog’s mind and know whether it is chasing or not. We must be comfortably satisfied that there has been a breach and, on the evidence presented to us, we are not so satisfied.
We accept that ECKLES has looked momentarily to his right, but we believe that, at that point, he would not have able to see the dog to his outside as that dog was behind it. There was no real discernible easing, and the dog went on to win the race. These actions were for a split-second only and not for a sufficient time to constitute the offence of failing to pursue in the Committee’s view. Moreover, Mr Dunn had put forward a plausible explanation for the dog’s actions [momentary distraction due to trackside marquees in place for Cup Day, shadows of the winning post, the large infield television screen and/or, possibly, the photographer].
 We drew Mr Rendle’s attention to the fact that this decision had been successfully appealed by the RIU. By the time of the Appeal, ECKLES had a new Trainer, Ms Lee, and she did not contest the fact that the Greyhound had not pursued the lure.
 Mr Rendle asked the Committee to view Race 2 at the Otago GRC meeting on 3 December 2019. This showed that the winner of the race, HENDRIX BALE, when well in front, turned its head to the right when there was a melee behind it. The dog was not charged with failing to pursue. Mr Rendle postulated that this was because HENDRIX BALE had heard a dog yelp when there was the collision at the back of the field. We viewed Mr Rendle’s submissions as being to the effect that the Stipendiary Stewards on occasion exercise a discretion and do not charge a dog with failing to pursue despite the fact it has voluntarily turned its head away from the lure.
 Mr Rendle also referred to the BLAZIN’ CARTER decision (22 May 2019) where the Stewards said in evidence that the dog had flicked its head once because it had become unbalanced. We note that the Committee in that case at  held that a “flick of the head” is a “voluntary turn of the head” for the purpose of the Rules; ie it falls within the definition of failing to pursue.
 Mr Rendle produced an email from Mr Hannan, the Chairman of the Board of GRNZ. He explained that he had raised the matter with Mr Hannan but had not expected that he would receive a letter in support of his case.
 Mr Hannan acknowledged that it was unusual for the Board of GRNZ to involve itself in decisions made by Stewards for race day matters. However, in the current instance the Board considered it appropriate to clarify its position in relation to the Rules of Racing.
 The Board described the purpose of the Rule to be “to address an instance where the Greyhound is distracted from the lure in the Race, or otherwise possibly causes distraction for another Greyhound, such that its prospects of winning are compromised or diminished.”
 The Board had viewed the race and said “nothing in the footage indicates any distraction to itself or another dog or less than vigorous enthusiasm to take the lead and chase the lure to the finish.”
 The Board considered “it would be an absurdity to take a view that the dog which led from the start and won the race by a healthy margin could at the same time be said to have failed to pursue the lure.”
 With respect to the rule itself, Mr Hannan said:
This Rule has a long history of difficult application and questionable outcomes. We are currently reviewing this rule in the context of the revised Greyhounds Australasia Rules of Racing which will come into effect in January 2022. We also note the Rule adopted by the NSW Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission which states inter alia “Where, in the opinion of the Stewards, a greyhound fails to pursue the lure with due commitment during an Event…”. This language more closely reflects the view of the Board.
We accept that the Committee may take a view that if this is what the Board intends then it should change the rule accordingly. We are undertaking that process currently, but regardless do not consider the Greyhound in question here has breached the rule either strictly or in any way that meets the spirit of the intention of the rule.
 Mr Rendle also tabled an email from Mr M Rosanowski, a Trackside Greyhound Commentator. Mr Rosanowski referred to other cases where dogs had or had not been charged with failing to pursue and stated: “With BIG TIME PRADA it is inconceivable that the winner of 8 from 9 by 2.5 lengths or more is sitting on the side-line for failing to pursue in a race she won easily in front the whole way and well away from any contact.” He said there appeared to be uncertainty as to whether Stipendiary Stewards have a discretion. He concluded his comment by suggesting that maybe GRNZ could review the Rule and allow for a discretion to be exercised by the Stipendiary Stewards “because as things stand decisions like Prada makes the sport a farce.”
 Mr Rendle reiterated this point, stating that the Stewards have a discretion and should have exercised it in favour of BIG TIME PRADA.
 In summing up, Mr Coppins agreed with Mr Rendle that there were both sight and sound dogs, although the majority were sight. He accepted that BIG TIME PRADA could not be described in general terms as a non-chaser and expressed some empathy for Mr Rendle.
 Mr Coppins agreed that the weather on the day was not good and that this was noted in his Report. This issue and, in particular, the noise of the rain hitting the outside fence, had not been raised with the Stewards on the day as the reason for BIG TIME PRADA turning her head shortly after the start. However, they did not believe the rain was any worse at the time of the running of Race 10. No other dog had turned its head on the day, and he questioned why BIG TIME PRADA only looked the once for the 2 1/2 strides.
 Mr Coppins concluded his submission by stating that the Stewards had applied the Rule consistently and had to make their rulings based on the videos and the Rules, as they are written at the time. The videos showed that BIG TIME PRADA had turned her head for 2 1/2 strides, hence the charge.
 Mr Rendle replied if BIG TIME PRADA was startled by the noise, it made good sense that she looked only the once. He believed she had chased hard throughout the race. He concluded his submission by stating that the intensity of the rain was an issue, that BIG TIME PRADA had looked right, carried on, and chased the lure.
 We are required to determine whether BIG TIME PRADA has failed to pursue the lure in Race 10 at the Palmerston North GRC meeting held on 13 September last.
 One manner in which a Greyhound may fail to pursue is if it “voluntarily [turns] the head without making contact with another Greyhound”. That is what is alleged on this occasion.
 The head-on video clearly evidences that the head of BIG TIME PRADA is turned to the right and thus outwards and away from the lure shortly after the start of the race for some 2 strides. There is no evidence of interference.
 The dog does not change stride or pause but continues on at such speed that she remains ahead of the field and easily wins the race. Mr Rendle, the Board of GRNZ, and the Trackside Commentator on the day are of the view that the dog has chased. The Informant points to the definition of “failing to pursue” and says it has not.
 Mr Rendle refers the Committee to the BLAZIN’ CARTER case and the Stewards’ evidence in that case that the dog had only flicked its head. We note the Committee held this flick constituted a turn of the head for the purpose of the Rule and that the Stewards on the day believed the flick of the head was due to earlier interference suffered by the dog. It was this issue that was disputed. We do not believe the BLAZIN’ CARTER case assists our determination of this matter.
 The Respondent, the RIB, rightly argue that consistency is important and that once a dog’s head is turned it has failed to pursue. Mr Rendle says this not the case, and that the Stewards have a discretion, and he submits the failure to charge HENDRIX BALE in Race 2 at Dunedin on 3 December 2019 is just such a case.
 One example, he submitted, of where the Stewards might not charge a dog is where it has become unbalanced and its head turns momentarily in the course of regaining its balance. Mr Rendle endeavoured to argue this was the case with BIG TIME PRADA on this occasion but there is not the video evidence to support this and, in these circumstances, he did not pursue this submission forcefully.
 In interpreting a provision regard is to be had to its purpose and intent. GRNZ state that the purpose of the definition of failing to pursue in r 1 was never to penalise a dog such as BIG TIME PRADA which has gone on to win the race and in quick time. We note that Stipendiary Stewards regularly submit that the fact a dog has won the race does not mean it has not chased. We accept that that will often be the case (see below).
 The issue in simple terms is whether every time a dog voluntarily turns its head away from the lure it has failed to pursue and should therefore be stood down (suspended). The Stipendiary Stewards state that this is the case, other than in the case of the one exception written into the Rule of the dog suffering interference.
 We believe there is a discretion vested in the prosecuting body, in this case the RIB Stewards, as to whether to stand down (suspend) a Greyhound. This is evidenced by the use of the word “may” in r 55.1(b); contrast for example the use of “shall” in r 55.2 with reference to the need for a veterinarian examination before ordering a suspension. And again in r 55.5, where on a serious injury being found, the dog “shall” not be suspended.
 There has been no evidence before us of the Stewards exercising a discretion on the day. To the contrary, Mr Coppins stated that he has a checklist with respect to the definition in r 1 and, if the necessary boxes are ticked, a dog is stood down. This was the practice he adopted with respect to BIG TIME PRADA.
 Considerations (factors) which may influence the exercise of the discretion under r 55.1(b) as to whether to stand a Greyhound down for failing to pursue include: how long a period of time was the head of the dog turned away from the lure (the head of BIG TIME PRADA was turned for 2 strides — there was no easing, so that aspect of the Rule was not engaged); was the dog looking to other dogs and wanting to engage with them (BIG TIME PRADA was not looking at the other dogs as they were some distance behind her); the weather conditions (in this case they were atrocious); was there a noticeable change in stride (there was not); what was the outcome of the race — and again we add we agree with the Stewards that this is only one factor to go into the mix, it is far from determinative (BIG TIME PRADA won the race in a very quick time); did the dog become unbalanced for reasons other than interference — eg due to the state of the track (there was no submission that the state of the track caused BIG TIME PRADA to become unbalanced and turn her head); was the dog’s focus on the lure diverted — by eg an act of nature or the actions of a third party, such as a stranger, a photographer, or the presence of another animal — eg a hare or rabbit (the heavy rain beating on the outside fence is alleged to have startled BIG TIME PRADA, who is a “hearing” Greyhound). No doubt there will be further factors (as in Race 2 at Dunedin on 3 December 2019, as discussed above, for example); this list does not purport to be exhaustive.
 These factors may or may not have resulted in the Stewards exercising their discretion and suspending (standing down) BIG TIME PRADA. But the key point is there should have been a consideration of these matters before any action was taken on the day under r 55.1(b). There was not.
 We add that we believe this interpretation is in accordance not only with the wording of the Rule but also with its intent and purpose.
 We note the perspective proffered in the correspondence from Mr Hannan on behalf of the Board of GRNZ. It is our view that a consideration of whether there should be an element of absence of due commitment written into the Rule is timely.
 The Review is successful and the 28 day stand down and satisfactory trial imposed upon BIG TIME PRADA under 55.1(b) by the Stewards on 13 September is lifted.
 There is no order for costs.
Dated at Dunedin this 13th day of October 2021.
Geoff Hall, Chairman
Decision Date: 13/10/2021
Publish Date: 14/10/2021