Rangiora HRC 18 December 2022 – R5 – Ben Hope

ID: RIB14616

Ben Hope - Junior Driver

Mr P Williams - Stipendiary Steward

Mr R McKenzie

Persons Present:
Mr J Dunn - Open Driver and assisting Mr Hope

Information Number:

Decision Type:
Race Related Charge

Careless Driving

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

Not Admitted

Animal Name:


Race Date:

Race Club:
Rangiora Harness Racing Club

Race Location:
Rangiora Racecourse - 312 Lehmans Road, Fernside, Rangiora, 7440

Race Number:

Hearing Date:

Hearing Location:

Outcome: Not Proved

Penalty: N/A


Following the running of Race 5, Jack Behrns Memorial Trot, the Respondent, Junior Driver Ben Hope, as the Driver of LATRELL in the race, denied a charge that he drove carelessly leaving the final bend when shifting ground outwards checking CORMORAN STRIKE (Robbie Close) which broke after locking wheels with LATRELL.

The Respondent endorsed the Information “I do not admit a breach of the Rule” and he confirmed he understood the Rule and the nature of the charge. He was supported at the hearing by Open Driver, John Dunn.

Rule 869 provides:

(3) (b)  No driver in any race shall drive carelessly.


Stipendiary Steward, Paul Williams, showed a video replay of the incident, as the field turned into the home straight with approximately 300 metres to race. He pointed out LATRELLE, driven by the Respondent, racing in the one-one position and CORMORAN STRIKE, driven by Mr Close, which had been racing four places back and had commenced to improve 3-wide.

Mr Williams said that Mr Hope had rounded the bend and, over a very short distance (approximately 20 metres), he had shifted out giving Mr Close no opportunity to avoid him and contact had occurred, the wheels of the sulkies locked, with Mr Close’s runner breaking.

Mr Close was not available at this stage of the hearing, but it was agreed that the Respondent could begin presenting his evidence, with Mr Close to be called later.

Mr Dunn said that the Respondent always had an advantage over Mr Close to enable him to ease Mr Close out. The Respondent’s outwards movement was not great and, at the point of the alleged interference, he was still almost on the back of the parked runner, LIL MISS MUSCLES (Gemma Thornley). Mr Close ought to have known that the Respondent was likely to move out at that point, he said. Furthermore, the movement was gradual, Mr Dunn submitted. Mr Close was also driving his horse up by slapping it with the rein and improving quickly. He also believed that Mr Close’s runner had ducked in.

Mr Hope said that he believed that he had given Mr Close plenty of time to react and it was more a case of how Mr Close’s horse had reacted.

Mr Dunn repeated that the Respondent’s movement had been gradual and he always had an advantage. The bend is a tight one and horses will often tend to “step in”, he submitted.

Mr Close was then called to give evidence. The video replay was shown to him. He said that he had come round 3-wide. The Respondent had looked at him once and moved out “just marginally” on the point of the bend, resulting in him being unable to get around his wheel. He had tried to give enough room, but Mr Hope’s initial movement was quick and their wheels touched. He had expected to be pushed wider by the Respondent and had tried to leave enough room between them, but it was on the bend where horses tend to lay in, he said. He believed that the Respondent had left his movement “a touch late”. Finally, he agreed with Mr Williams’ suggestion that the Respondent’s movement had been abrupt.

Mr Dunn suggested to Mr Close that his horse had been rather “green” and was to blame for the incident. Mr Close said that the Respondent had come out quickly and then slowed down.  Mr Close said that Mr Hope had driven up with the whip, had turned round and had seen him coming. He did expect that the Respondent was always going to come out underneath him. Mr Dunn observed that the Respondent’s horse’s head had been turned out in a gradual manner, one movement out, not quickly. He did not have to correct his horse’s movement.

Stipendiary Steward, Shane Renault, asked Mr Close whether he believed that the Respondent’s outward movement had been abrupt. Mr Close replied that the movement had been “slow but not gradual”.

In reply to a question from the Adjudicative Committee, Mr Close said that he had known for some distance that it was the Respondent’s intention to shift out. The Respondent had looked around on a couple of occasions. He had therefore tried to stay wider to give the Respondent plenty of room.

At this stage of the hearing, and in conclusion, Mr Williams referred to the Shifting Ground Regulation (this will be referred to later in this decision).


The charge is dismissed.


The Adjudicative Committee heard lengthy evidence and submissions from the Stewards and from the Respondent and Mr Dunn on his behalf. In addition, it heard from Mr Close, called as a witness by the Stewards, who gave his version of what happened and he was cross-examined at length by Mr Dunn. The video replay was referred to repeatedly and the Adjudicative Committee viewed it carefully.

The Adjudicative Committee finds that, approaching the home turn, LATRELL, driven by the Respondent, was racing in the one-one and CORMORAN STRIKE, driven by Mr Close, was improving 3-wide from further back in the field.

The Stewards attempted to show that the Respondent then shifted his runner out while Mr Close was to his outside, alleging that he had done so in an abrupt manner, not allowing Mr Close time to be eased out. Mr Close said that the Respondent had moved out “just marginally” and described the movement as “slow but not gradual”.

Mr Dunn submitted that the Respondent’s movement had been gradual and over some distance, and Mr Close agreed that he had been aware that the Respondent was about to move out. Mr Close had seen the Respondent looking to his outside.

Mr Williams made reference to the Shifting Ground Regulation as had Mr Dunn earlier:

Where a horse does not have a clear passage during a race a driver shall be permitted to shift ground outwards and ease another runner up the track provided the horse is in a position to be moved out without causing interference to that or any other horse and that the movement complies with the requirements of [the “push out” Rule]. For the avoidance of doubt 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.

The Adjudicative Committee finds that the Respondent’s runner had, at all relevant times, an advantage over Mr Close, and that Mr Close was in a position to be moved out. Therefore, the Respondent was able to move Mr Close’s runner out provided he did so with safety and in a gradual and acceptable manner. The Adjudicative Committee finds that the Respondent’s move complied with this requirement. Mr Close had said that the Respondent had moved out “just marginally” and he had been aware that the Respondent was about to move out.

This is not to say that Mr Close was at fault for the interference. He said that he had attempted to give the Respondent the necessary room and this is supported by the video evidence. It did appear that his runner may have run in slightly, on the point of the bend, contributing to the incident.

At the end of the day, the Adjudicative Committee finds that both Drivers were driving with care and what took place was in the nature of a “racing incident”.

The Adjudicative Committee was not satisfied that the charge of careless driving against the Respondent had been proved to the necessary standard and the charge is dismissed.


The charge is dismissed.

Decision Date: 18/12/2022

Publish Date: 18/01/2023