South Canterbury RC 28 April 2022 – R3 – Craig Harrison
AUNT CINDY and ROW OF EIGHTS
South Canterbury Racing Club
Phar Lap Raceway - State Highway 1, Washdyke, Timaru,
Phar Lap Raceway
Penalty: Judge Craig Harrison is fined $2000.
Following the running of Race 3, the NZB Insurance Pearl Series Race Maiden F&M 1200, Chief RIB Steward Mr John Oatham presented an Information alleging a breach of Rule 641(1) by the Judge for the race meeting, Mr Craig Harrison. The Information stated Mr Harrison “failed to place AUNT CINDY & ROW OF EIGHTS (dead-heat) according to the order in which their noses have reached the winning post.”
Mr Harrison confirmed he understood the charge and that he was conversant with the Rule. Mr Harrison signed the Information stating he did not admit a breach of the Rule.
Rule 641(1) “The Judge shall place all horses in the Race according to the order in which their noses have reached the winning post”.
Mr Oatham had Stipendiary Steward Mr Mark Davidson, identify each of the horses on the photo finish and point out their noses and the margin between the 2 horses Stewards alleged to be correct.
Mr Oatham said the key evidence from Stewards was the photo finish image, which he said clearly shows a margin between the 2 horses in question. He submitted a photo taken at the stabling area showing ROW OF EIGHTS’ prominent white nose, which he said, can clearly be seen against the dark nose of AUNT CINDY, highlighting a discernible gap between the horses at the finishing post.
Mr Oatham said the image on the screen was the official photo finish of the race released to Trackside by the Judge and the photo finish operator. The Stewards see it clearly as not a dead heat.
Mr Harrison said in reply that the photo on screen was only one image and he looks at several images, particularly when there is a close finish such as this. He said we compress the images, draw them out and expand them from all angles and it was his opinion that there was not enough photographic evidence to determine which horse was 1st or 2nd. He said to be fair to the connections, I dead-heated them.
Mr Harrison said it does appear Steward’s image on their screen is clearer than what we had to work with. He showed the Adjudicative Committee the computer image he had worked off, and another which camera operator Mr Jim Ryan demonstrated and who commented that the colours were different, the picture was compressed and it was basically a low-quality image.
Mr Harrison said it is clear now that the outside horse has a white nose, but at the time we disregarded that colour as we do for all colours. He said high-resolution cameras can distort images and can also pick up shading, and the low angle of the sun can be a factor plus his laptop didn’t have the same ability, in the time frame, to enhance it to the clarity of the Trackside image. Mr Harrison said it has been a constant problem here at Timaru with the camera angle looking through the horses, not over them as at most other tracks. He said in regard to these factors, and although it is now clear ROW OF EIGHT’s nose is white, he is still not 100% sure that the image on the screen of AUNTY CINDY’S nose is actually the mare’s nose.
Mr Harrison, in summary, said considering the factors he had mentioned plus the lack of an infield camera, a winning post mirror that is not up to standard, the Judge’s box which is a considerable distance from the track and at a low angle, there were too many elements of doubt to determine that the inside horse’s nose was in fact what we can see on the screen.
Racecourse Investigator, Mr Simon Irving, asked Mr Harrison if he had accessed the Trackside image at the time, would it have changed his decision.
Mr Harrison said he couldn’t answer that, he didn’t know. He said he made his decision from what he had available to him at the time.
REASONS FOR DECISION:
The Adjudicative Committee carefully considered all the submissions presented. The image the Stewards had on screen was very compelling. Mr Oatham’s assertion that ROW OF EIGHTS nose and AUNTY CINDY’S nose are clearly visible and can’t be anything else is correct, and there is a discernible margin between them. Mr Harrison had many factors to consider when making his decision and in the Adjudicative Committee’s opinion, many factors beyond his control to contend with. Nevertheless, a serious mistake has been made and Mr Harrison has to bear the responsibility for this mistake.
The Adjudicative Committee find the charge to be proved.
SUBMISSION FOR PENALTY:
Mr Oatham said charges of this nature are very rare and there are only two that can be referenced, and he said he was personally involved in both of them.
The first was Mr Dave Carter, who was the Judge at Tauranga in 2004. The mistake was picked up a day or two later involving 2nd and 3rd placings. Mr Carter admitted the breach which happened on a premier day. Mr Oatham said the stake differential was approximately $2500 and Mr Carter was fined $1750.
The second was Mr Tom Thomson, who was the Judge also at Tauranga in 2009. This breach was also picked up at a later date and involved 3rd and 4th placing. On this occasion, the difference of stake money was $1750 and Mr Thomson was fined $1500.
Mr Oatham said connections in these cases were compensated by the club and in this case, the stake differential after the 1st and 2nd stakes money were combined and shared was $2180. He said the Rules around the judging of the race determine the Judge’s placings must stand, and as is the case here, there is no comeback for the betting public.
Mr Oatham said Mr Harrison has been a Judge for some time now and there appear to be no issues in the past. He said on this occasion, a fine is the appropriate penalty and he can only point to the previous cases to be of some guidance.
Mr Harrison chose not to make any submissions on Penalty.
REASONS FOR PENALTY:
Breaches of Rules for Judges are very uncommon and there are no Guidelines to provide a starting point for a Penalty in this case. The historic cases alluded to by Mr Oatham are exactly that, historic, being 13 and 18 years ago, but the cases at Tauranga are the only relevant reference the Adjudicative Committee has for guidance in finding a starting point that is fair and reasonable. They involved horses being placed in the wrong order, and it could be argued the impact on the betting public was greater than in this case, where a dead heat was wrongly posted.
In arriving at an apposite sanction, the Adjudicative Committee has regard for the significant increase in fines implemented in approximately 2012.
The consequences of this breach are a loss of stake monies to connections and a large effect on the betting public, a serious consideration. The Adjudicative Committee acknowledges Mr Harrison has made a genuine mistake and has arrived at a starting point of a $2500 fine.
Mr Harrison has an excellent record over many years for which credit is afforded, and the Adjudicative Committee has some understanding of the factors in play that may have influenced his decision making on the day. This has been taken into consideration.
These factors accumulate a discount of $500.
Judge Mr Craig Harrison is fined $2000.
Decision Date: 28/04/2022
Publish Date: 02/05/2022