Methven TC 1 November 2023 – R1 – James Stormont
Methven Trotting Club
Methven Racecourse - 47 Mount Hutt Station Road, Methven, 7782
Mt Harding Racecourse, Methven
Penalty: Open Driver, James Stormont, suspended 2 days
Following the running of Race 1, Mount Hutt Workouts Trot, Open Driver, James Stormont, denied a breach of Rule 869(4)(6)(b)(c) in that, as the Driver of SPECIAL EFFECTS in the race, he forced THE GARDENER’S PRIDE (Sarah O’Reilly) wider on the track near the 1100 metres – an alleged breach of the Pushout Rule.
Rule 869 provides as follows:
(4) No driver shall during any race do anything which interferes or is likely to interfere with his own horse and/or any other horse or its progress.
(6) Subject to sub-rule (4) hereof:-
(b) a horse during any race shall not be forced to race wider on the track;
(c) a horse during a race shall not move ground outwards once the nose of the wider runner coming forward is in line with or past its sulky wheel and until the wider runner going forward is fully past.
Stipendiary Steward, Shane Renault, showed all available video replays of the incident in the back straight, with approximately 1100 metres to run. He pointed out SPECIAL EFFECTS, driven by the Respondent, racing four places back on the markers as the field entered the back straight. BONEY M (Grant Hunt) was racing in the one-one to the outside of that runner and THE GARDENER’S PRIDE was racing on the back of BONEY M.
BONEY M was pulled out to improve 3-wide shortly after, and SPECIAL EFFECTS took up its position in the one-one. However, in the meantime, Ms O’Reilly had improved to the outside of the Respondent’s wheel and, as a result, had to take a hold of her horse and restrain, being forced to race wider on the track, Mr Renault said. Kyle Cameron, driving KING OF DIAMONDS, had got up to the inside of Ms O’Reilly and had to take hold as she came back down. Ms O’Reilly had lost the position to which she was entitled, Mr Renault said.
At this point, the Adjudicative Committee requested that Ms O’Reilly be called to give evidence. When the hearing resumed, Ms O’Reilly said that she had been racing three places back on the outside, following BONEY M. With reference to the video replay, she explained that Mr Stormont, on her inside, came out. She stated that she had been racing outside Mr Stormont and was forced to race wider. She was left in “no man’s land” and was forced to pull back. She confirmed that she had been pushed out.
The Respondent asked Ms O’Reilly if she was able to follow BONEY M when it pulled out. Ms O’Reilly said that she was not. The Respondent said that there was, therefore, room for him to pull out. Asked by the Adjudicative Committee, Ms O’Reilly said that she did not wish to follow BONEY M out 3-wide but, rather, wished to remain in the one-out line. She was forced to race wider for 20 metres, Ms O’Reilly estimated, and also lost her position.
The Respondent said that he had seen Mr Hunt on BONEY M preparing to go. When Mr Hunt did go, he, the Respondent, went “straight forward on an angle”. He had not seen the head of Ms O’Reilly’s runner as he was not looking around. It was “touch and go, a 50/50 call” whether Ms O’Reilly was outside his wheel.
The relevant Rule (see above) was read to the hearing.
The charge was found proved.
REASONS FOR DECISION:
The Adjudicative Committee was satisfied that the Respondent, shifting away from the markers into the one-out line to take up the space vacated by BONEY M with approximately 1100 metres to run and forcing Ms O’Reilly’s runner to race 3-wide for a short distance, was in breach of the “Pushout Rule”.
The Adjudicative Committee observed that, at the point of the race at which the Respondent shifted away from the markers, Ms O’Reilly had progressed forward and the nose of her runner was, clearly, in line with or past the Respondent’s sulky wheel. This was clearly shown on the video replay. Ms O’Reilly’s evidence on this point was also compelling, and was unchallenged by the Respondent.
Ms O’Reilly also gave evidence that she was forced to race wider on the track for a distance, she estimated at 20 metres. As a result of having to ease back, she lost the position she was entitled to in the one-out line.
Thus, the elements necessary for the Stewards to establish a breach of the Rule have been made out to the satisfaction of the Adjudicative Committee.
SUBMISSIONS FOR PENALTY:
Mr Renault said that the Respondent has had 85 drives in the current season and his record under the Rule is clear. He submitted that the breach could be dealt with by way of a $200 fine, as per the Penalty Guide. The Respondent had gained a run to which he was not entitled and Ms O’Reilly had to take hold and lose her position. The consequences of the breach were low, Mr Renault submitted.
The Respondent asked if it would be possible for a term of suspension by way of a penalty, rather than a fine. Mr Renault submitted that a 2-days suspension would equate to a fine of $200.
The Respondent said that he wished any term of suspension to commence immediately.
REASONS FOR PENALTY:
The RIB Harness Racing Penalty Guide (February 2023) suggests a starting point for penalty of a fine of $200. That would have been the penalty for this breach which the Adjudicative Committee would have imposed. However, the Adjudicative Committee was prepared to accede to the Respondent’s preference for a suspension on the grounds advanced by him.
The Adjudicative Committee was satisfied that the recommendation of the Stewards for a 2-days suspension, in lieu of a $200 fine, was appropriate.
The Respondent, Open Driver, James Stormont, is suspended from after the close of racing on 1 November 2023, up to and including 10 November 2023 – 2 days.
Decision Date: 01/11/2023
Publish Date: 03/11/2023