Non Raceday Inquiry – Written Decision dated 21 October 2023 – Alan Clark
Addington Raceway, Christchurch
Penalty: Holder of Licence to Train, Alan Clark fined $200
Information No A17048 was filed by Chief Stipendiary Steward, Nigel McIntyre, against Holder of Licence to Train, Alan Lauri Clark, alleging that Mr Clark, as the Trainer of MASSIVE MERC (2021 B c Muscle Mass – Mercadante), he nominated and started that horse in Race 1, Learners Trot, at the workouts meeting of Mt Hutt Trotting Club at Mt Harding Racecourse on 16 September 2023 “prior to the permitted time being 1 October 2023”.
Mr McIntyre produced an Authority to Charge signed by Mr Mike Clement, Chief Executive of the Racing Integrity Board authorising the filing of the information.
The Information was served on the Respondent at the meeting of NZ Metropolitan TC at Addington Raceway on 20 October 2023 and was heard at that meeting. The Respondent had endorsed the Information to the effect that he did not enter a plea to the charge and he confirmed this at the outset of the hearing. The hearing proceeded on the basis that the charge was denied.
Rule 401 provides as follows”
(1) The age of every horse foaled on or after 1 January and before 1 August in a calendar year shall become a one-year-old on 1 January in the next calendar year in which it is foaled.
(2) The age of every horse foaled on or after 1 August in a calendar year and before 1 January in the next shall become a one-year-old on 1 January in the next but one calendar year in which it is foaled.
Rule 402 provides:
No horse under the age of two years shall compete in any race (except that nothing in this rule precludes a horse being entered and starting in a workout or trial after 1 October in the year before it becomes a two-year old under rule 401).
Chief Stipendiary Steward, Nigel McIntyre, produced printouts of the race result and the Horse Details for MASSIVE MERC from the records of Harness Racing New Zealand. The race result showed that MASSIVE MERC started in Race 1 (finishing unplaced), and the Respondent agreed that it had done so. The Horse Details showed that MASSIVE MERC was foaled on 11 November 2021. Mr McIntyre said that the horse, therefore was a yearling as at 16 September 2023, when it competed in the Mt Hutt workout, and did not become a 2-year-old until 1 January 2024.
The Respondent made lengthy oral submissions which are summarised here. He began by explaining his understanding of workouts – no official “oversight” by HRNZ, other than to publish results. The Methven workouts are unofficial workouts, he submitted, and expressed by HRNZ to be unofficial with no Stipendiary control.
Mr McIntyre read to the hearing the definition of “Workout” – “a trotting race or pacing race held on a racecourse or course which is not approved by Harness Racing New Zealand”. He agreed that a Steward was not present at the Methven workouts.
Most of the Rules of HRNZ were not policed at workouts, the Respondent submitted. All Rules should be implemented fairly, he said.
He was unaware of the Rule change introduced when the season dates were changed, the Respondent said. Prior to that he had often had 2-y-o’s at workouts in August and September, and often qualified them to race. He expressed disapproval of the Rule change which, he said, was probably introduced to appease the animal rights movement, and was not widely notified.
Mr McIntyre said that Notice of the Rule change was posted on the HRNZ website at the time. In addition, proposed Rule changes are notified to the Trainers and Drivers Association. Licenceholders were required to be aware of the Rules as a condition of holding a Licence, Mr McIntyre said.
The Respondent said that it was easy for the Notices to be missed. HRNZ should have a duty to communicate Rule changes effectively. He said that he has since spoken to a number of other Licensed Trainers, all of whom were unaware of the Rule change. That MASSIVE MERC was ineligible to compete in the workout was not raised by any “red flag” in the system. Two persons who take Nominations for workouts and Race meetings were also unaware, he said.
The Respondent said that Mr McIntyre should have used common sense and issued a warning for this breach and addressed the “shortcomings” with HRNZ. The charge was “unnecessary, short-sighted and heavy-handed”, he said.
Mr McIntyre said that he did sympathise with the Respondent, and he will be speaking with HRNZ regarding taking steps to avoid a repeat of this situation. He suggested that the Respondent take the matter up with his Association regarding effective dissemination of Rule changes following the Annual Conference.
The charge is found proved.
REASONS FOR DECISION:
Applying the relevant Rules (above), it is necessary for the Applicant to prove only two things. Firstly, that MASSIVE MERC was foaled on or after 1 August and before 1 January in a calendar year. The Committee accepts that the foaling date was 11 November and, therefore according to Rule 402(1), the horse was a yearling until 1 January 2024. That Rule provides that no horse under the age of two years shall compete in any race prior to 1 October. “Race” is defined as “a trotting race or competition whether Licensed under the Racing Industry Act 2020 or not”.
Secondly, it is necessary to prove that MASSIVE MERC competed in a race prior to 1 October. This is a matter of record and was admitted by the Respondent. In terms of the Rule, the horse was not eligible to compete in any workout before the date of 1 October. The breach was committed on 16 September.
The Adjudicative Committee notes the provisions of Rule 714, which are relevant:
(1) These Rules so far as they are applicable shall apply to all trials meetings and workouts.
(2) A Stipendiary Steward or Racing Investigator may exercise any power or duty of a Stipendiary Steward or Racing Investigator in respect of any matter arising at or in connection with a workout.
Finally, by way of response to the Respondent’s submissions, he should be aware that ignorance of the Rules is not a defence or excuse.
SUBMISSIONS FOR PENALTY:
Mr McIntyre said this was a clear breach of the Rules. He has some sympathy for the Respondent, but the onus is on a Licenceholder to know the Rules. Being a new Rule, obviously his record is clear.
There is no precedent for a breach of this nature, Mr McIntyre said. He submitted that a fine in the vicinity of $200 would be appropriate.
The Respondent said that any reasoned argument appears wasted, so long as one is “ticking the boxes”.
REASONS FOR PENALTY:
In the absence of any Penalty Guide or precedent case or cases, the Adjudicative Committee deems it appropriate to accept the submission of the Applicant as far as penalty is concerned. That is for a fine of $200.
The Adjudicative Committee hopes that this case will alert other Trainers to the requirements of Rules 401 and 402.
Finally, the Respondent made reference to animal welfare. The Committee observed that he did not appear to have any concern for the animal welfare issue involved in the charge.
The Respondent, Holder of Licence to Train, Alan Clark, is fined $200.
Decision Date: 20/10/2023
Publish Date: 26/10/2023