Non Raceday Inquiry – Written Decision dated 7 March 2022 (with addendum) – Brad Williamson

ID: RIB7845

Respondent(s):
Brad Williamson - Driver

Applicant:
Mr Vinny Munro (Stipendiary Steward)

Adjudicators:
Mr N Skelt

Persons Present:
Mr B Williamson (Driver of MABALENE) Mr N McIntyre (General Manager of Stewards) Mr S Renault (remote Steward)

Information Number:
A16038

Decision Type:
Adjudicative Decision

Charge:
Driving in manner capable of diminishing his horse's chances of winning by failing to ease his drive

Rule(s):
869(3)(g)

Plea:
Admitted

Animal Name:
MABALENE

Code:
Harness

Race Date:
25/02/2022

Race Club:
Invercargill Harness Racing Club

Race Location:
Ascot Park Raceway - 29 Findlay Road, Ascot, Invercargill, 9810

Race Number:
R7

Hearing Date:
04/03/2022

Hearing Location:
Winton Racecourse

Outcome: Proved

Penalty: Driver Brad Williamson was suspended for 8 driving days

Evidence

[1] An Information A16038 was filed by Stipendiary Steward Mr V Munro against Driver Mr Brad Williamson alleging a breach of Rule 869(3)(g) in that he drove in a manner capable of diminishing his horse’s chances of winning, by failing to ease his drive during the middle stages when racing to the outside of ‘Show Me Heaven’ so as to give ‘Mabalene’ some respite which would thereby enable the mare to finish the race off in the most competitive manner possible.

[2] Rule 869(3)(g) reads: “No driver in any race shall drive in any manner capable of diminishing the chances of his horse winning”.

[3] The charge was heard as a Non Raceday Inquiry at the Winton Racecourse on 4 March 2022.

[4] Mr Williamson indicated on the signed Information that he did admit the breach of Rule 869(3)(g) and confirmed this at the hearing and also confirmed that he understood the Rule.

SUBMISSIONS:

Informant’s Case

[5] Mr Munro presented the appointment to the Non Raceday Inquiry- #22/47 which was signed by the RIB Acting Registrar.

[6] Mr Munro presented the Authority to Charge Mr Williamson signed by the Acting Chief Stipendiary Steward Mr Steve Mulcay and also by Mr Mike Clement Chief Executive RIB dated 1 March 2022.

[7] Mr Munro presented the Charge, Rule and Penalty Provisions with the penalty under the Rule being a 40 drive suspension or $2000 fine.

[8] Mr Munro presented the Information A16038 signed by Mr Williamson admitting the breach.

[9] Mr Munro presented the Racing Integrity Board versus B M Williamson Summary of Facts (points 1-17).

[10] Mr Munro presented the Racing Integrity Board versus B M Williamson Summary of Drives for 2021/22 season to date. (Last 6 months) highlighting 193 drives at 45 meetings, average of 4.288 drives per meeting.

[11] The Summary of Facts as follows:

Summary of Facts:

1. Rule 868(3)(g); No driver in any race shall drive, in any manner capable of diminishing the chances of his horse winning.

2. Rule 1008A; Where in any proceeding, any matter is required to be proved by an informant or defendant, the standard of proof shall be the balance of probabilities.

3. Mr Williamson was the driver of MABALENE in Race 7 at the Invercargill HRC meeting on 25th February 2022.

4. MABALENE who drew 5 for the 1700 metre mobile start event.

5. Mr Williamson has urged his runner forward out of the gate and at the 1400 metre mark comes alongside the initial leader SHOW ME HEAVEN driven by Mr Tim Williams.

6. From this point Mr Williamson has become active in urging MABALENE to try and assume the lead.

7. Approaching the winning post near the 1000 metre mark Mr Williamson has his horse forward of Mr William’s charge but not far enough for his sulky to move down to the marker line. Here Mr Williams then urges his horse and takes up the space to Mr Williamson’s inside.

8. Mr Williamson continues to urge his horse for another 200 metres until he takes some respite, then passing the 450 metre mark he finally eases and shifts down onto the back of Mr Williams on the marker line.

9. Mr Williamson’s horse has battled over the final stages and ended in 5th place, 6.3 lengths from the winning horse.

10. The official time shows that the initial 900 metres which was timed in an extremely fast 61.23 seconds. The final 800 metres was 59.76 seconds, with an overall time being 2.00.99, being a mile rate of 1.54.51, a new track record.

11. A post-race Veterinary examination revealed an initial high heart rate, but the mare had recovered well quickly.

12. Mr Williamson had options available to him, after a period of unsuccessfully attempting to gain the lead. He at some stage needed to rethink his tactics and ease, in order to give his runner some respite, however he has failed to do so.

13. Stewards maintain that Mr Williamson has challenged for the lead for approximately 600 metres which was to his horse’s detriment by clearly diminishing its chances of winning the race.

14. Mr Williamson’s drive on this occasion is well below the standard expected of a Driver with his experience.

15. A drive like this has a detriment effect on the industry which is driven by the gambling dollar and impacts on the public confidence and the integrity of the industry.

16. Under the rules it has been established by a previous JCA decision in 2015 (RIU v COX & WILLIAMSON) that it is acceptable for a driver to either maintain or challenge for the lead for a distance of up to 400 metres before having to take some type of action to give their runner respite.

17. In the Appeals Tribunal in J & C (19 October 2000), it emphasised, each race will depend on its own particular circumstances, especially as they unfold during the race. The obligation to drive within the Rules of Harness Racing exhibiting skill and utilising experience, rests with the driver for the duration of that race.

Respondent’s Submissions

[12] Mr Williamson has agreed with the Summary of Facts as presented by Mr Munro. The Adjudicative Committee asked for some clarification around some further questions it had of Mr Williamson.

[13] Mr Williamson was asked to clarify what his driving instructions were by Mr Brent White the Trainer of Mabalene. Mr Williamson’s response was go to the front and hold the lead if possible. Mr White said he was very happy with the horse’s preparation leading into the race and that the horse had had no luck in the running in its previous start.

[14] Mr Williamson was asked if he had previously driven the horse ‘Mabalene’ his response was no but he was sure that the horse had led 2 starts previous and had won.

[15] Mr Williamson was asked if he conversed with Mr Williams (Show Me Heaven) at any point in the perceived duel. Mr Williamson’s response was that he did call out to Mr Williams and asked if he was staying in front and Mr Williams’ answer was that he was doing so at that point.

[16] Both Mr Willliamson and Mr Munro were asked to clarify Mabalene’s normal racing pattern which both agreed that the horse was normally an on-pace-runner.

[17] Mr Munro was asked to clarify what both horses ‘Mabalene’ and ‘Show Me Heaven’ were on in the betting market, Mabalene being 4/4 and Show Me Heaven being 2/2.

SUMMING UP

[18] Mr Munro submitted that the Rule is one of strict liability. To prove a charge under the Rule the Stewards only needed to prove that Mr Williamson had driven in a manner capable of diminishing Mabalene’s chances of winning the race. There was no requirement to prove intent.

[19] Mr Williamson wished to add that clearly both he and Mr Williams had made an error of judgement in this instance which he freely admits.

[20] In J & C (19 October 2000) the Appeals Tribunal had emphasised that each race would depend on its own particular circumstances, especially as they unfold during the race. The obligation to drive within the Rules of Harness Racing, exhibiting skill and utilising experience, rested with the Driver for the duration of the race.

REASON FOR DECISION

[21] As Mr Williamson has admitted to the breach the charge is found proved.

SUBMISSIONS ON PENALTY

[22] Mr Munro presented Mr Williamson’s summary of drives over the last 6 months as below:

RIB v B.M.Williamson

Summary of Drives for 2021/22 Season to date. (last 6 months).

September 2021, 27 drives @ 6 Meetings, average of 4.50.

October 2021, 38 drives @9 Meetings, average of 4.22.

November 2021, 35 drives @8 Meetings, average of 4.38.

December 2021, 38 drives @7 Meetings, average of 5.42

January 2022, 28 drives @7 Meetings, average of 4.00.

February 2022, 27 drives @8 Meetings, average of 3.38

Up to and including 27th February 2022.

Summary.

193 drives @ 45 meetings, average of 4.288 drives per meeting.

In further discussion with Mr Munro, it was agreed that the February 2022 drives at 3.38 had skewed the 6 month summary somewhat and for a fairer assessment, it was agreed that 4.2 to 4.5 was a more accurate summary of Mr Williamson’s normal race day drives. It was also noted at today’s Winton meeting on a 12 race card, Mr Williamson had 4 confirmed drives.

[23] Mr Munro also highlighted that Mr Williamson has had 3821 lifetime drives, 380 last season and 55 this season. Mr Munro stated that the Stewards believed that a possible 8 driving day suspension may be appropriate. Mr Munro was also questioned if Mr Williams had also been charged with a breach under the same Rule which he confirmed he had.

[24] Mr Munro also highlighted that Mr Williamson had been proactive with him regarding a possible breach prior to Mr Munro filing an Information and Mr Williamson had admitted the breach at the very first opportunity and had been very professional throughout the process.

[25] Mr Williamson confirmed that he was not seeking deferment of penalty and he wanted the matter to be dealt with as quickly as possible. When questioned Mr Williamson confirmed that he had approximately 20 horses at work and that many of his owners, up to 70%, would be expecting him to be driving their horse.

PENALTY

[26] The Penalty Guidelines suggests a 40 drive suspension or a $2000 fine as a starting point.

[27] There are several aggravating factors to consider in that the duel went on for far too long and was an incredibly poor look for both the Drivers involved and the Industry as a whole.

[28] The horse Mabalene was well favoured in the betting 4/4 as was Show Me Heaven 2/2. As a result of the drives, the betting public have been seriously affected with neither horse finishing in the dividend bearing placings.

[29] The Adjudicative Committee accepts that Mabalene may have been an on-pace-runner but simply in this case Mr Williamson has given the horse virtually no chance of finishing in a dividend or stake bearing place, noting also that the race was a track record for the distance.

[30] In the Adjudicative Committee’s opinion the judgement Mr Williamson has shown on the day in the drive, was extremely poor.

[31] The animal welfare aspect is also extremely serious and the duty of care to the Industry is also incredibly important. In both instances here, Mr Williamson has fallen well short of what is expected of a Senior Driver of his experience.

[32] The mitigating factors in fixing penalty is that Mr Williamson has an outstanding driving record and has no previous breaches under this Rule and has admitted the breach. For these reasons, a 1 day reduction in penalty with a starting point of 10 Canterbury South days is imposed.

[33] Mr Williamson, to his credit, has been proactive with Mr Munro right from the outset of the incident making contact with him prior to an Information being served. Mr Williamson has also been extremely professional throughout the process and remorseful in the sense he has clearly made a significant error of judgement, letting down himself and the Industry. As a result of his professionalism in this instance, a further 1 day reduction is imposed.

DECISION

[34] Mr Williamson is suspended from the conclusion of racing on 6 March 2022 up to and including racing on 20 March 2022 (8 days); the meetings the suspension takes into account are the following:

9/3 Oamaru, 11/3 Westport, 12/3 Northern Southland, 13/3 Reefton, 16/3 Timaru, 18/3 Christchurch, 19/3 Wyndham, 20/3 Banks Peninsula (noted that the Westport and Reefton meetings are being held in the Canterbury region).

ADDENDUM:

Please refer to paragraphs 13 and 15 above.

13.  Mr Williamson also added that Mr White the Trainer told him to lead and leave LIFE’S A BEACH in the parked position after finding the lead.

15.  Mr Williamson said that he asked Mr Williams if he was staying in front to which his reply was yes while passing th 1300m mark.  Mr Williamson also said that he had to pull two lengths back in order to relinquish his position as opposed to Mr Williams’ horse having to ease significantly less.

Decision Date: 06/03/2022

Publish Date: 16/03/2022