Non Raceday Inquiry – Written Decision dated 6 July 2022 – Sarah O’Reilly

ID: RIB9879

Sarah O'Reilly - Junior Driver

Mr S Renault - Stipendiary Steward

Dave Anderson

Persons Present:
Mr S Renault and Mr P Williams - Stipendiary Stewards, Miss O'Reilly and Mr G O'Reilly assisting.

Information Number:

Decision Type:
Race Related Charge

Failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures.

868(2) - Riding/driving infringement - Driver failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to win or gain best possible placing.


Animal Name:


Race Date:

Race Club:
NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club Inc

Race Location:
Addington Raceway - 75 Jack Hinton Drive, Addington, Christchurch, 8024

Race Number:

Hearing Date:

Hearing Location:
Addington Raceway - 75 Jack Hinton Drive, Addington, Christchurch, 8024

Outcome: Proved

Penalty: Junior Driver Sarah O'Reilly is suspended for 4 days.


[1] This hearing is a matter arising from the running of Race 10 at the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club’s race meeting on 9 June 2022. Junior Driver Miss Sarah O’Reilly admitted to a charge alleging that she breached Rule 868(2).

[2] Following the race and after reviewing the race video, Miss O’Reilly’s drive had come to the attention of Stewards but Miss O’Reilly had left the course, preventing any dialogue between the parties.

[3] Two days later Miss O’Reilly was spoken to and told the matter would be adjourned so Stewards could view more evidence and for Miss O’Reilly to consider the possibility of facing a charge. Mr Renault said it was the Steward’s intention to speak with Miss O’Reilly the next week but she wasn’t driving at that meeting.

[4] Mr Renault said Miss O’Reilly was informed the following week 26 June, the Stewards were proceeding to file a charge and that she should seek advice on her plea. He said this sequence of events had been the reason for the delay in bringing Miss O’Reilly before an Adjudicative Committee.

[5] Authority to charge was sought and given by the CE of the Racing Integrity Board, Mr Mike Clement.

[6] The charge was heard at Addington Raceway on 3 July 2022, and at the commencement of the hearing, Miss O’Reilly confirmed she admitted the breach and understood the nature of the charge. She was assisted at the hearing by her father Mr Gerald O’Reilly – Open Driver.

The Charge

[7] The Information detail of the charge was ” Miss O’Reilly failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to ensure TASMAN TEMPEST was given full opportunity to win or obtain the best possible position and/or finishing place by not shifting wider on the track on the final bend when an opportunity existed, resulting in her horse being held up for clear racing room in the run home. ”

The Rule

[8] “Every driver shall take all reasonable and permissible measures at all times during the race to ensure that his/her horse is given full opportunity to win the race or obtain the best possible position and/or finishing place”.


[9] The Respondent Miss O’Reilly has admitted the breach; it is therefore deemed to be proved.


[10] Mr Renault provided the Adjudicative Committee with a written summary of facts which he articulated to the hearing.

[11] The race was over 1980m from the mobile and TASMAN TEMPEST had drawn 4.

[12] Miss O’Reilly began well and crossed to the parked position where TASMAN TEMPEST began to over race. On passing the 1200m Miss O’Reilly took cover from the favorite for the race, ABSOLUTE DYNAMITE( J Dunn), and appeared to settle somewhat.

[13] At approximately 500m ARDEN’S SWEETHEART (T Williams) who was trailing Miss O’Reilly, began its challenge 3 wide. ARDEN’S SWEETHEART improved 3 wide to be outside TASMAN TEMPEST, a manoeuvre which took approximately 150m to complete.

[14] It was Mr Renault’s contention that Miss O’Reilly had this 150m to shift her horse out from behind ABSOLUTE DYNAMITE and receive an uninterrupted run which would have been both reasonable and permissible. He said Miss O’Reilly has made a significant error in judgment which is below the standard prescribed by the Rules and is culpable and deserving of sanction.

[15] In Response, Miss O’Reilly stated she had driven her horse 5 times previously and that it has a very short sprint. She said she noticed at the 500m, Mr Dunn (ABSOLUTE DYNAMITE), had not activated any gear and she was expecting that horse to finish strongly in the straight. She accepted on this occasion she had made an error of judgment.

Penalty Submissions – Applicant

[16] Mr Renault provided the Adjudicative Committee with written submissions and these were read at the hearing.

[17] In the 2022 season, Miss O’Reilly has driven at 88 meetings and had 355 drives – an average of 4 drives per meeting. In the extended 2020/2021 season she had 619 drives. She is therefore a busy Junior Driver who drives throughout the South Island and is also a regular Driver in the Central Districts of the North Island.

[18] Stewards believe the severity of the breach is not less than mid-range.

[19] Penalties in previous cases under the Rule have rarely seen the imposition of a fine and have invariably been a period of suspension.

[20] Mr Renault believes on this occasion a period of suspension is the only appropriate penalty. He said in Miss O’Reilly’s case, 20 drives equate to 5 driving days, and after taking into account the mitigating and aggravating factors, Stewards submit a penalty of a 5-day suspension be imposed.

Penalty Submission – Respondent

[21] Mr O’Reilly stated a 5-day suspension would be very harsh in this case. He alluded to a recent case of Mr McKendry who under the same Rule defended a charge which was found proved. He said Mr McKendry was driving the favourite in the race which subsequently won in its next start and an Adjudicative Committee suspended Mr McKendry’s licence for 3 days. Mr O’Reilly said his daughter’s drive was 9/8 in the betting and it had raced 3 times since without remotely threatening the Judge.

[22] Miss O’Reilly said she was a busy Junior Driver and was endeavouring to win the Junior Premiership and a 5-day suspension would be severe. She said in the race she had considered her horse’s ability and assessed the situation around her but as it had turned out she had made the wrong decision.

Penalty Decision

[23] Mr Renault in his summary, drew attention to the HRNZ v W Higgs (2005) case. This expertly worded interpretation of the Rule makes the comparison of a permissible error of tactics to an error of tactics, that amounts to bad judgment and results in a disadvantage for the horse. The Adjudicative Committee considers this to be very relevant and at the heart of this case.

[24] Any breach of this Rule brings into question the integrity of Harness Racing and whilst there is no suggestion Miss O’Reilly deliberately intended to deny her horse the opportunity to finish in a better position, her standard of driving fell well short of her normal very competent driving. It would be expected that as any race passes the 400m, Drivers would be looking for clear running. The betting public who had placed a bet on TASMAN TEMPEST would have been left wondering why Miss O’Reilly did not shift out when the opportunity had existed.

[25] The Penalty Guide starting point is a 20-drive suspension or a $1000 fine.

[26] Miss O’Reilly has a clear record under the Rule and together with her admission of the breach is deserving some discount of Penalty.

[27] Miss O’Reilly sought a deferment of any suspension so she could fulfill her engagements at the Forbury Park Club meeting at Wyndham on 7 July 2022.

[28] Accordingly, after considering all the submissions and evidence, a 4- meeting suspension is imposed.


[29] Miss O’Reilly’s licence to drive is suspended from the conclusion of racing on 7 July 2022 up to and including racing on 17 July 2022.

Decision Date: 03/07/2022

Publish Date: 07/07/2022