Non Raceday Inquiry – Decision dated 5 December 2022 – Gavin Smith
SPEED WRITER and U R THE ONE
Penalty: Licensed Trainer, Gavin Smith is fined $300
Summary of Facts:
1] On 30 November 2022 the North Canterbury Trainers and Owners Association conducted a trials and workouts meeting at Rangiora.
2] Stipendiary Steward Mr Williams was the Steward in charge of the meeting and he was assisted by Stipendiary Steward Mr Sole.
3] Approximately 15 minutes after the completion of Race 10 – the final race on the programme – the Stewards were still on the racecourse and Mr Williams received a call from Mr Smith saying that he had made an error during the meeting and needed to urgently see me.
4] I located Mr Smith shortly after receiving the call as he was preparing to return to his stables at Woodend Beach and he told me he had presented SPEED WRITER to race as U R THE ONE IN Race 7 and U R THE ONE as SPEED WRITER in Race 9. He readily admitted it was a huge mistake on his part and no other person was to blame.
5] I immediately contacted Mr Kirkwood at Harness Racing New Zealand and advised him what had happened and requested he amend the results of Races and 7 and 9 that had been sent through to him by me earlier that afternoon and specifically disqualify from Race 7 the horse that ran under the name of U R THE ONE (it finished 6th of 8) and also disqualify from Race 9 the horse that ran under the name of SPEED WRITER (it finished 1st of 5).
6] Mr Smith then explained the circumstances that led to the mistakes being made. He said he brought the horses to the course and had started gearing up each of them but did not finish that task as he had to drive another horse he trains in Race 6. Mr Smith added the gearing up of the horses was completed by an employee who had recently commenced working for him and who was unfamiliar with the horses. Mr Smith said that he assumed (incorrectly) the horse he drove out onto the track for Race 7 was U R THE ONE and the horse he drove out onto the track for Race 9 was SPEED WRITER. He said it was only after returning to the stall after Race 9 and removing the gear from the horse that he realised it was not SPEED WRITER but was U R THE ONE and therefore that the wrong horse – SPEED WRITER – had raced earlier in Race 7.
7] Mr Smith was then told he could take his horses back to his stables whilst the Stewards considered what had happened after which we come to his stables and advise him how the breach was going to be dealt with.
8] Stewards arrived at Mr Smith’s property approximately 30 minutes later and told him after considering his explanation for how the wrong horses had been presented to race, it was intended to charge him with a breach of Rule 502A(2). Mr Smith said he understood why he was being charged asked what a possible penalty would be and was told Stewards would be seeking a fine although the penalty decision would be made by an Adjudicative Committee after hearing evidence and submissions from all parties. Mr Smith said he would like the matter dealt with as soon as possible and was told that every effort would be made to have the matter heard at the upcoming Akaroa TC meeting to be held on Saturday 3 December.
Submissions by Respondent:
Mr Smith accepted the Summary of Facts as presented by Mr Williams as being correct. He added that he had been, and was still very busy, due to having accepted 20 horses from another stable recently. Mr Smith said that he was understaffed whilst he was waiting for new staff to start. He stated that this was not an excuse but a reasonable explanation of how the mistake occurred.
The charge is admitted and therefore proved.
Penalty Submissions by RIB:
Mr Smith is an experienced Trainer having started in 116 races in the current season, 165 last season and over 2300 since he commenced as a Public Trainer.
In considering an appropriate penalty for this breach Stewards have taken into account the following:-
- Mr Smith has fully co-operated with Stewards admitting the breach at the earliest opportunity and expressing considerable remorse for his actions
- Mr Smith advised Stewards immediately he was aware of the mistakes he made
- Mr Smith is experiencing difficulties in recruiting staff to work in his expanded training operations following the recent transfer to him of all horses from the stable of a Trainer who is alleged to have committed serious racing offences and who is currently under investigation by the RIB
- It is the Trainer’s responsibility and only the Trainer’s responsibility having entered a horse into a race to ensure the correct horse is brought to the racecourse to start in that race
- The meeting was a trials meeting and not a race meeting at which the totalisator was in operation
- Both horses have been disqualified from their respective races
- Previous breaches of this Rule have incurred fines with recent relevant decisions including:-
- P Burrows – November 2022 – presenting wrong horse to race at a totalisator meeting, $500 fine
- S Lock – August 2020 – presenting wrong horse to race at a totalisator meeting, $700 fine
- B Waldron – May 2016 – presenting 2 horses to race in incorrect heats at a trials meeting, $250 fine
After taking all of the above matters into consideration, and in particular Mr Smith’s commendable honesty in immediately advising Stewards of his error, it is submitted on this occasion a $400 fine is an appropriate penalty.
Submissions on Penalty – Respondent:
Mr Smith stated that if he had not informed the Stewards that the incorrect horses had raced at the trials, no one would have known any better. He came forward to admit the mistake and deal with it in an honest and professional manner. He submitted that any penalty should reflect that very strong mitigating factor as well as the other mitigating factors presented by Mr Williams.
Reasons For Penalty:
The Penalty Guide does not provide a starting point for a breach of this Rule, therefore a penalty must be determined through analysis of the facts, consequences and circumstances as well as researching historic breaches of this Rule in conjunction with submissions from both parties.
Although this breach occurred on a trial day, not a race day, which is deemed more serious for obvious reasons, an aggravating factor to consider was that two horses were presented and did in fact start in the events before Mr Smith realised a mistake had been made.
In mitigation, Mr Smith’s frank admission and his immediate action to inform the Stewards as soon as he discovered the mistake was very much to his credit. This also meant that both horses were removed from the official results, as soon as possible on that day, without any ongoing effect to the Industry.
Historic penalties for similar breaches have been of some assistance to this Adjudicative Committee. They range from $250 to $700 where in some cases the offence was on race day, but the mistake was picked up prior to the race or trial, and either the horse was scratched, or the correct horse eventually took its place in the field.
Balancing the circumstances of this breach with the need to maintain integrity and public confidence in Harness Racing can be served by the imposition of a fine in this case, which on balance needs to serve as a deterrent to Mr Smith and other Trainers. The requirement to present the correct horses at the trials as well as at the races is self-evident but one that cannot be over emphasised.
After taking into consideration all factors including historic penalties imposed, aggravating factors being the fact that both horses competed in incorrect events, the impressive mitigating factors, being Mr Smith’s frank admission and his very credible, honest actions after discovery of his mistake, were highly commendable. However, despite these strong mitigating factors, a penalty to reflect the level of the offence must be imposed.
This Adjudicative Committee determined that after taking all factors into consideration, an appropriate penalty in this case is a fine of $300.
The Respondent is fined $300.
Decision Date: 05/12/2022
Publish Date: 19/01/2023