Non Raceday Inquiry – Written Reasons for Decision Delivered on 27 September 2022 – Sam Weatherley

ID: RIB11304

Sam Weatherley - Jockey

Mr S Irving - Investigator, RIB

Hon J W Gendall KC (Chair), Mr L N McCutcheon

Persons Present:
Mr S Irving, Mr S Weatherley, Mr D Dow - Counsel for RIB, Mr F Pilditch KC and Mr P Cornege - Counsel for Respondent, Mr N Grimstone, Mr M Williamson, Mr G Simon, Mr M Coleman, Ms Feek - Media Representative

Information Number:

Decision Type:
Race Related Charge

Reckless Riding

638(1)(b) - Riding/driving infringement

Not Admitted

Animal Name:


Race Date:

Race Location:
Cambridge Jockey Club - , ,

Race Number:

Hearing Date:

Hearing Location:
Te Rapa Racecourse

Outcome: Proved

Penalty: Jockey Sam Weatherley's licence to ride is suspended for 9 weeks

1. The Racing Integrity Board presented an Information charging Mr S Weatherley, a Class A Licensed Jockey, with Reckless Riding in breach of Rule 638(1)(b) of the Rules of Racing at the Cambridge Jockey Club meeting on 3 August 2022.

2. The Information contended that Mr Weatherley:

“… did ride recklessly passing the 250 metre mark in that he directed his mount, “JACK HAMMER” outwards making heavy contact with the hindquarters of “GOODO JO” which was forced into the path of “TE ATATU PASH” causing that runner to fall and dislodge the Rider”.

3. Mr Weatherley denied the charge.

4. Rule 638(1) provides that:

“A Rider shall not ride a horse in a manner which the Adjudicative Committee considers to be:

(a) foul
(b) reckless
(c) improper
(d) careless
(e) incompetent

5. The Adjudicative Committee received evidence:

(a)  In the form of the head on and side on raceday films
(b)  For the Informant, orally, from:

  • Mr J Oatham, Chief Stipendiary Steward
  • Mr Jones, Stipendiary Steward
  • Mr W Robinson, Stipendiary Steward
  • Mr S Irving, to present the audio, and written transcript of the interview with Mr Weatherley

(c)  For Mr Weatherley, from:

  • Mr R B Marsh – in statement form
  • Mr M T Coleman – in statement form and orally
  • Mr G Simon – in statement form

6. Submissions as to liability presented by Counsel for both the RIB and Mr Weatherley, relied upon the respective different opinions and conclusions of competing witnesses.  In summary, the Stipendiary Steward’s opinion evidence was that, on entering the home straight, Mr Weatherley deliberately steered his mount outwards to force a run which was not available to him, by abruptly directing his mount outwards to make forceful contact with GOODO JO.  He did this, they said, without thought of, or heeding, the consequential danger that such action might cause to other horses and/or Riders.  For Mr Weatherley, his Counsel relied upon the opinion evidence of Mr R B Marsh with whom Mr G Simon agreed that the riding was neither reckless nor careless; and that of Mr M Coleman whose opinion was that the riding was careless but did not reach “the level of recklessness”.

7. Following deliberations reviewing and assessing the race film and all the written and oral evidence, the Adjudicative Committee found the charge to be proved, and that it was comfortably satisfied by a wide margin, that it considered the manner of riding to be reckless.  After hearing submissions from Counsel as to penalty, the Adjudicative Committee imposed a suspension of Mr Weatherley’s licence to ride for 9 weeks.  Because the Rules of Racing required a deferment of the commencement date where there are committed riding engagements of up to 10 days, the suspension was to commence at the conclusion of racing on 1 October 2022 and end at the conclusion of racing on 3 December 2022.  We advised the parties that detailed reasons would be provided as soon as possible.


8. The Adjudicative Committee emphasises – as it said at the hearing – that its function was only to apply the Rules of Racing and to determine whether the riding was in breach of Rule 638(1)(b) [reckless] or Rule 638(1)(d) [careless] or neither.  Our function was not to attribute any blame, or otherwise, to anyone for the tragedy that ultimately occurred.  And we do not do so.  Of course, as a factual matter, Mr Weatherley’s manner of riding commenced a chain of events that followed, but the tragic outcome may have resulted from a raft of different factual causes, upon which we are not required to comment.

9. Frequently, in Racing (and other Tribunals) there are differing opinions presented to the decision makers.  This is especially the case in categorising whether a manner of riding falls within a breach of the Rules of Riding and, if so, what should be its categorisation (reckless, careless, incompetent, improper etc).  The opinions of witnesses may assist an Adjudicative Committee in reaching a conclusion.  But the Rule specifies that it is for the Adjudicative Committee itself to “consider” whether the riding, in this case, was reckless in breach of Rule 638(1)(b).  The opinions of witnesses form part of the evidence, to which is added the race films, and the submissions of the parties.  These have all been considered carefully.  In the end, the final assessment of all the evidence is the task of the Adjudicative Committee, which assessment may be informed and assisted by the experience in racing matters of members entrusted to make these decisions.  Members of the present Adjudicative Committee have had over 50 years experience, first as a Jockey for many years, a Stipendiary Steward and Chief New Zealand Steward for a lengthy period, involving interpreting in excess of 25,000 race films, and as raceday and Appeal Judicial Committees for an extensive period.  Of course, this does not entitle an Adjudicative Committee to act capriciously without consideration of all the evidence.  But it is well known that a wide experience in the sport may assist in assessing the evidence.

“Reckless” contrasted to “Careless”

10. A person is reckless when he/she acts in a way where they are heedless of, or indifferent to, the danger or peril of the consequences of their actions.  That is when there is disregard or indifference to the danger of the situation or for the consequences of one’s actions.  “Careless” by a Rider is where he/she fails to act with the necessary prudence, or level of care, that a reasonable Rider is expected to take in the same circumstance.  It may arise from inattention to take reasonable care, rather than consciously deliberate,  So, for example, a Jockey is required to take reasonable care to keep his/her mount on its required line and not hamper other Riders by drifting off that line when insufficiently clear.

11. The actual result or outcome of the particular riding is not the determining factor of whether the  riding is reckless or careless (or neither). There can be reckless riding which does not involve any fall or injury (eg the Australian cases of Damien Oliver (14 October 2016, or J Cartwright (24 January 2017).  Correspondingly, there can be careless riding which leads to a fall or even tragedy.  So, too, there can be a fall with or without a tragic outcome, where there has not been a breach of the Rules of Racing.

12. Those observations are made to illustrate that the tragedy that eventually happened ought not take into account in deciding the charge.  But a fall may be one factor relevant to penalty, which Rule 920(2) requires an Adjudicative Committee to have regard, amongst such matters as it considers appropriate:

“c)  any consequential effects upon any person or horse as a result of the breach of the Rule”.

The Competing Opinions of Witnesses

13. The evidence and opinions of the three Stipendiary Stewards, in summary was:

  • Mr B Jones:  He said that the actions of Mr Weatherley as displayed on the films were deliberate, moving abruptly outwards, at a sharp angle to make hard contact behind the girth of “GOODO JO”, so as to unbalance its Rider.  It then hindered “TE ATATU PASH” causing it to fall and dislodge its Rider, Mr T Yanagida. He said that whilst a gap may had earlier momentarily appeared, it had closed before Mr Weatherley abruptly directed his mount outwards.
  • Mr W Robinson:  Said he had been a Senior Rider for many years and a Stipendiary Steward for 25 years, which experience assisted him in his interpretation of the race films.  He said that there was never a gap available for Mr Weatherley to take.  He was adamant, and not shaken by cross-examination on this.  He said that for Mr Weatherley to try to make a gap by deliberate behaviour was reckless, and that he believed that as an experienced Jockey he was using his mount as a “battering ram” by “barging” out, because the only way through was to make room.  He said there was never enough room inside of “GOODO JO” and it was struck with such force as to turn its hindquarters around.  He said he disagreed with the opinions of Messrs Marsh and Coleman.
  • Mr J Oatham (Chief Stipendiary Steward for 6 years and 20 years experience as a Steward):  He said he believed the riding was reckless and there was never a run available to Mr Weatherley.  The abrupt angling out was a deliberate movement in an aggressive manner leading to very solid contact which knocked “GOODO JO” sideways and almost off its feet.  He considered the riding to be reckless.

14. Counsel for Mr Weatherley tendered the written statement of Mr Marsh with his interpretation of the race films.  This involved an intricate analysis, second by second, of the films.  In summary, he said that Mr Weatherley “sees a gap, which starts to close” one second later.  He “would expect” Mr Weatherley to take the gap and he has started to move “there is very little he could have done” as it would have been “very dangerous [to him]”.  He said that this sort of contact in a race “is not unusual”, being “everyday” and there “was no sign of any risk at all.”  In his opinion Mr Weatherley was “not even careless”, was committed to the gap, and that he would expect any Jockey in his position to act in the same manner.  As Mr Marsh was unable to be present he was not questioned orally by Counsel or the Adjudicative Committee.

15. Mr Simon said in his statement that he agreed with Mr Marsh.

16. Mr Coleman, in his statement initially said he concurred with Mr Marsh’s opinion, but refined this view.  Whilst he said he agreed the manner of riding was not reckless, it was careless.  He said he “would expect a Jockey in Sam’s position, having seen the gap to try and take the run he did.”  He said that the actions though careless were “not on a level  that I would consider reckless.”

Mr Weatherley’s Statement

17. Mr Weatherley, in the presence of his lawyer, was interviewed by an Investigator and a Stipendiary Steward on 26 August 2022.  The audio was played to the Adjudicative Committee and it has a typed transcript of it.  Mr Weatherley did not give oral evidence, given his comprehensive interview so was not questioned by Counsel or others during the hearing.

18.  The Adjudicative Committee was not told what, if anything Mr Weatherley said to Mr Marsh when viewing the films and Mr Coleman said he had not spoken to Mr Weatherley.  Whilst Mr Marsh says Mr Weatherley “sees a gap” – (and so was expected or able to go for it), the Adjudicative Committee does not know if in fact Mr Weatherley said this to Mr Marsh because he has not said so in his interview.  In his statements to the Investigator he is heard to say:

  • “I’ve just gone.  I thought there was a run appearing out 3 wide there and I’ve just looked to come out for a run, and obviously Darren Danis’ mount has been going better than mine at the time and probably held his line….. nine times out of 10 I thought that run would appear.”
  • and “I did think that the leader [Ms Spratt] should have skipped away a little bit and then there was definitely a run there that was appearing.” (The Adjudicative Committee records that the word “then” is not in the transcript but it is clearly audible on the audio tape). [Question] …at the moment you made that decision to push out, are there other options going through your mind? [answer] “It was one or the other.  It was either sit there in behind Sam Spratt’s horse and, in all honesty, I thought there was a run appearing there and, as I said 9 times out of 10, or 99 times out of 100 it’s gonna happen.”
  • and “I honestly at the time didn’t think that horse [Mr Danis’] was going as well as what it was going and I thought the 2 horses in front were going better and sometimes you do ride in the field and I felt that they would quicken up and it just didn’t happen.”

19. This explanation does not seem to correspond with Mr Marsh’s statement or belief that “Sam…… sees a gap.”

20. Mr Weatherley’s actual explanation was that he expected or anticipated a gap developing or presenting itself if or when other horses had continued as he had expected but “it just did not happen.”  That is not quite the same as him saying he saw a gap that had existed.


21. After considering all the evidence and competing opinions, as well as the real time depiction on the films, the Adjudicative Committee preferred the views and evidence of the three Stipendiary Stewards.  A legitimate gap, that Mr Weatherley might attempt to take, did not exist.  The Adjudicative Committee then had to determine whether what Mr Weatherley did was reckless or careless or neither.

22. As with other competitive sports which occur at high speed with participants in close confines (eg motor racing, harness racing, ice hockey), horse racing is an activity which carries considerable risks and danger to horses and Riders.  It involves horses weighing up to 500 kilograms, ridden by slight (50-60kg) men and women, at speeds of up to 50kph, in close confines.  That is well known, and is perhaps illustrated by the fact that an ambulance always follows the field around during each race which is not a feature of other sporting contests.

23. Mr Weatherley as a Senior Jockey knows of the risks involved in races, and of the heightened risk or danger to horses and Riders if others do not observe, but ignore, the Riding Rules of Racing.  They are designed to promote safe competition.  His Counsel submitted that “where a Rider decides to make a run this may cause a greater than usual risk” than generally present in a high speed sport and accordingly Mr Weatherley had to have “an appreciation that the risk involved [in him making a run] was greater than would normally occur in a race.”  So, he argued, “Mr Weatherley’s appreciation of the risk was important.”

24. The Adjudicative Committee does not accept this refined argument.  All experienced Jockeys know that if they deliberately break important Riding Rules or requirements for safe riding, at any time in a race, a greater risk exists and is created, to all participants than otherwise would be the care when they obey their riding obligations.  They know and appreciate that heightened risks and dangers exist where riding  in close quarters wherever during a race.  Breach of a Rule in such situations is not without more reckless, but deliberate choosing to ride in a manner that heightens the risk to others, when heedless of or with indifference to the consequences that may lead from such action may well be reckless.

25. Of course, Mr Weatherley did not intend there to be a fall or other consequences from what he did.  But, he displayed a cavalier attitude indifferent to the consequences that would occur. We consider the comments of the Appeal Judge in the Australian case of Damien Oliver (14 October 2016) where his appeal against a finding of reckless riding was dismissed, are appropriate and apply to the present case.  He said:

“[the rider] displayed a cavalier attitude and reckless indifference to the possible grave consequences, when he deliberately rode his mount into another horse…. [he] as a very experienced professional jockey is aware of the attendant dangers of placing another jockey at risk of falling and the consequential danger to other riders where a fall occurs in front of a field of riders.”

26. That is what occurred.  To summarise, the Adjudicative Committee finds, by a wide margin, Mr Weatherley chose to deliberately direct his mount outward abruptly in an attempt to force its way into a run/gap that did not exist.  What followed was severe forcible contact to “GOODO JO” which led to the fall of “TE ATATU PASH” on its outside.  The following runner “NANTUCKET” had no opportunity of avoiding the fallen horse.  Mr Weatherley was indifferent to the harmful consequences that could follow from his deliberate actions and was reckless.


(27) We received submissions from Counsel as follows.

(a)  From Counsel for the RIB: He advised that Mr Weatherley had a poor record with 6 careless riding breaches in the past 12 months (and 12 in 3 years).  He contended that a starting point of 6 weeks’ suspension had been accepted as necessary for reckless riding, and uplift of 2 weeks because of his very poor record, and a further 4 weeks to reflect the consequences of the breach.  He said that there were no mitigating factors.  The RIB sought a suspension of Mr Weatherley’s licence for 3 months (12 weeks).

(b)  Counsel for Mr Weatherley submitted that there were considerable mitigating factors which had to be taken into account.  He referred to the genuine remorse and sorrow that Mr Weatherley feels, together with the profound emotional impact the tragedy has had upon him.  He said that he has had to endure harsh, unfair judgment and criticism from some on social media, and otherwise, in the Racing Industry (something that Mr Simon says in his statement has been “appalling”).  There was no intent by him to offend, is aged 23 and is a Rider of real talent.  He had personally met with, and expressed his concern and sorrow, the family of Mr Yanagida.  Counsel referred to the reckless riding case of Mr J Parkes (Appeal Decision 8 August 2014) who was suspended for 5 weeks.  The Adjudicative Committee notes that in that case the Jockey pleaded guilty immediately, was dealt with on the raceday, and had a good record.


28. There are few reckless riding decisions in New Zealand, apart from that of Mr Parkes.  The accepted “starting point” contained in the Guide is a suspension of 6 weeks.  This requires substantial uplifts by the Adjudicative Committee for several reasons.

(a)  Mr Weatherley has a very poor record for breaches of the Riding Rules (Careless Riding) prior to this race meeting 3 August.  He had 11 offences for careless riding since November 2019, 5 of which had occurred in the previous 12 months.  A number of these involved him directing his mounts out in the home straight to force runs, (for example, at Auckland – 7 January 2022; Waikato – 4 September 2021; Auckland – 7 March 2020), some in Group races where suspensions of up to 10 riding days, and fines of up to $1,000 and $2,000 imposed.

(b)  Then, at this meeting on 3 August 2022, in his immediate prior ride (Race 4), he shifted his mount out to create a gap about 300 metres from the finish to “force a run when not sufficiently clear” – crowding other runners.  He received a suspension of 7 National Riding Days.  This was a separate aggravating feature, which attracts the comment that this was becoming an unfortunate habit.

(c)  This later offence was the 7th breach in the past 12 months.

(d)  Rule 920(2)(c) requires that an Adjudicative Committee when imposing any penalty for a breach of the Rules may “have regard to consequential effects upon any person or horse as a result of a breach of the Rule.”  The effect of “GOODO JO” being struck with such severity as to force it into the path of “TE ATATU PASH” leading to to its fall is clearly an aggravating consequence.

29. For the combination of these several aggravating features, an uplift of 4 weeks in total is required.  There is no “double counting” for the earlier careless riding on 3 August 2022 as it was a separate breach, making the record, the, 6 breaches in 12 months, and this became the 7th breach.

30. From the total of 10 weeks suspension, there is a reduction of 1 week to reflect mitigating factors which include Mr Weatherley’s anguish and trauma that he has sufferered, his remorse and outward expression of sorrow to the family of Mr Yanagida.  And we are mindful of the personal matters put before us, which do not need to be recorded.

31. The deferment of the commencement of the term is required by the Rules of Racing because Mr Weatherley had committed riding engagements up to 1 October 2022.  So his suspension of 9 weeks was fixed to commence at the conclusion of Hawke’s Bay Racing (which, as it happens, did not take place) on 1 October 2022, and to end at the conclusion of racing on 3 December 2022.

32.  The Adjudicative Committee made no order as to costs.

Decision Date: 27/09/2022

Publish Date: 06/10/2022