Oamaru HRC 9 November 2023 – R7 – Sam Thornley

ID: RIB29624

Sam Thornley - Junior Driver

Mr Shane Renault - Stipendiary Steward

Geoff Hall

Persons Present:
Mr Vinny Munro - Stipendiary Steward; Mr Nathan Williamson - Driver

Information Number:

Decision Type:
Race Related Charge

Careless Driving

869(3)(b) - Riding/driving infringement

Not Admitted

Animal Name:


Race Date:

Race Club:
Oamaru Harness Racing Club

Race Location:
Oamaru Racecourse - Highway 1, Oamaru North, Oamaru, 9494

Race Number:

Hearing Date:

Hearing Location:

Outcome: Not Proved

Penalty: N/A

Mr Renault alleged that Mr Thornley drove carelessly in Race 7 near the 900 metres when shifting ground outwards, making contact with OUTAMYWAY (Ms Harrison) which broke as a consequence.

Mr Munro demonstrated on the videos that Mr Thornley was racing inside the 1000 metres when he pushed out and locked wheels with Ms Harrison. He stated that Mr Thornley had pushed out too quickly. Mr Thornley was racing 2 wide and Ms Harrison was 3 wide outside Mr Thornley, who had moved out and had made contact with the wheel of Ms Harrison’s cart, and her horse had broken as a consequence.

Mr Renault referred to the Shifting Ground Regulations which provide: “The onus shall be on the driver shifting ground to ensure the move is made with safety and does not cause interference by conducting it in a gradual and acceptable manner thereby enabling the driver of the runner being moved to be able to take the necessary action to accommodate the manoeuvre.” He said Ms Harrison had been clearly checked when Mr Thornley had shifted out and she had not been given enough time to take the necessary action, as required under the Regulations.

Ms Harrison gave evidence. She said that she was aware at the time that she could be pushed out. She did not think she had had enough time to get out of Mr Thornley’s way. She said her cart was large and Mr Thornley’s was small, and they had locked wheels. This was the first time this had happened to her in a race, and she had pulled back and her horse had galloped. She said she had tried to go wider on the track when Mr Thornley shifted ground.

When questioned directly by Mr Renault, she said Mr Thornley’s outwards movement did feel quite sudden, but her horse was hanging in a bit, and this had possibly contributed to the contact between the carts. She added she had tried to move out as fast as she could.  She acknowledged she had had room to go wider on the track, and her horse had been slow to respond.

Mr Williamson said Mr Thornley was entitled to come out and he did not believe the shift was too sudden. He accepted there had been the locking of wheels. He emphasised that Ms O’Reilly, who was racing ahead of Mr Thornley, had shifted wider when the pace had eased in front, and Mr Thornley was following her out. He said the contact was because the wheel of Mr Thornley’s cart had come under the bigger cart of Ms Harrison. He stated that Ms Harrison was an inexperienced Driver who had tried to relieve the pressure, but she had not been able to shift wider on the track as quickly with OUTAMYWAY as she could have with another horse.

Mr Williamson stated in his view, Mr Thornley’s move was not abrupt and sharp. It was slow and gradual. He said Ms Harrison was taking a tight line 3-wide and her horse had not reacted when she went to shift wider. It was lugging in and, had it not been, she could have more easily relieved the pressure. He described it as “a racing incident”. He accepted Mr Thornley was shifting ground, but Mr Thornley had exercised “enough care”. It was not careless driving.


The issue is the speed with which Mr Thornley has shifted outwards. Ms Harrison’s evidence has been equivocal. She was aware she was likely to be pushed out and has said her horse was lugging in, which made it more difficult for her to shift wider on the track when Mr Thornley came out. She has also said that had Mr Thornley shifted out more slowly, she would have had more time to shift wider, but she was unsure whether she had shifted out quickly enough herself. The size of the respective carts has resulted in Mr Thornley coming out under Ms Harrison’s cart.

The case is finely balanced. The videos do not evidence an abrupt shift by Mr Thornley. He has shifted out following Ms O’Reilly, and Ms Harrison was aware he was coming and could not shift her horse outwards before there was contact between the carts. The wheels have locked briefly. It cannot be said that this was because of careless driving on the part of Mr Thornley.

The charge is not proved.

Decision Date: 09/11/2023

Publish Date: 13/11/2023