Wyndham HRC 12 October 2023 – R10 (heard 22 October 2023 at Wyndham) – Brad Williamson
Wyndham Harness Racing Club
Wyndham Racecourse - Alma St, Wyndham, 9892
Penalty: Driver, Brad Williamson suspended 2 days
Mr Renault alleged that Mr B Williamson in Race 10 failed to drive his horse, PERFECT POTION, out to the end of the Race when he had a reasonable chance of finishing 4th outright. Mr Williamson was in a dead-heat for 4th.
Mr Renault demonstrated that the Respondent was 3 back and one off when his horse paced roughly. Mr Williamson had to take hold. He was then crowded between 2, TASHS BAD GIRL, and 6, BOMBAY GLACIER. From the 100 metre mark Mr Williamson had a clear run to the winning post. He said there was a use of the whip 80 or 90 metres from the line and again near the 50 metres but no urging of the horse from this point. He said there was nothing demonstrable or discernible on the videos. He emphasised the Stewards were not alleging it was deliberate but that it was just a misjudgement by the Respondent. He said while the Stewards accepted PERFECT POTION had been in restricted room earlier, there was nothing preventing Mr Williamson from driving the horse out in the last 50 metres.
Mr Williamson emphasised that PERFECT POTION was an inexperienced 3-year-old filly who had been knocked over at her last start. She had got around in a subsequent trial. At the top of the straight she had all but galloped and then she was placed in restricted room and almost galloped again. The horse was green and had done well to get around in one piece. He said he had struck her twice 50 metres out. He was pulling the reins and making contact with her right rump and quietly urging her. He accepted he did not have an issue with room at this time, but he was being cautious. Once he realised he had room, he hit her a couple of times. She had galloped last start and at the trials, so he did not want to persist with the stick. He reiterated he had asked her to run home. She was a filly that needed to be nursed.
Mr Renault summed up stating, the Stewards accepted that PERFECT POTION had paced roughly and had been crowded at the 100 metres, but Mr Williamson had not shown sufficient vigour over the final 50 metres to get the best possible placing. There was no noticeable action from Mr Williamson, and he disagreed that Mr Williamson was using the right rein to urge the horse.
Mr Williamson reiterated he had urged the horse with the right rein in the final 50 metres.
Decision as to breach
The videos evidence very little urging of PERFECT POTION in the final 50 metres. Mr Williamson is sitting quietly in the cart and any significant urging with the right rein is imperceptible. Hand movement is only slight. Any touch of the horse’s rump with the right rein is also extremely light.
It is accepted that PERFECT POTION is an inexperienced 3-year-old filly that has galloped in some of her starts and that Mr Williamson was aware of this. It is also accepted that the horse paced roughly earlier in the straight and had also been placed in restricted room. These mitigating factors explain to some extent Mr Williamson’s inaction but do not excuse it. When the horse was clear at the 100 metres Mr Williamson has used the whip. Over the final 50 metres, as Mr Renault states, there is no demonstrable or discernible urging of the horse with whip or reins.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Mr Williamson thought PERFECT POTION would finish 5th or 6th and was content to simply keep her in her gait at this point with the horse having paced roughly earlier. The runner with which PERFECT POTION dead-heated, EMMA’S DELIGHT, was racing inside Mr Williamson, and has come back quickly. It appears this has caught Mr Williamson unawares. Had there been urging of PERFECT POTION it is reasonable to conclude that the horse may have finished in sole position in 4th. In these circumstances the charge is proved.
Mr Renault produced Mr Williamson’s record which evidenced he has had 196 drives this season and has a clear record under this Rule. Mr Renault stated this Rule is very rarely breached and this was only the second charge issued this season. The other charge was against Jason Thomas at NZMTC on 20 October 2023, and he too was charged for not driving his horse out to the end of the race when having a reasonable chance of finishing 4th. Mr Thomas was suspended for 3 days as per the starting point in the Penalty Guide.
Mr Renault submitted that Mr Williamson’s record should be treated as a neutral factor as effectively every driver has a good record under this Rule, with the infrequency of charges.
Mr Renault submitted that the breach was no less than mid-range as Mr Williamson stopped driving for a significant period of the run home (some 50 metres). Mr Renault highlighted the need to have regard to the consequential effects on the horse’s connections losing stake money and any punter investing on 1st 4s having their dividends halved. There was also a need to maintain the integrity of Harness Racing.
Mr Williamson addressed only the possibility of deferment of any suspension until after the Winton meeting on 26 October.
The starting point in the Penalty Guide is a 3-day suspension where a driver has had a reasonable chance of finishing 4th. It was never part of the Stewards’ case that Mr Williamson could have finished 3rd or better. The placing lost, as noted in Thomas, is already built into the starting point penalty provided in the Penalty Guide. Mr Williamson in fact dead-heated for 4th. The difference in stake money is not a large sum when the 2 stakes are accumulated and then divided between the respective connections. Mr Renault is correct when he says the 1st 4 dividend was halved, however there was still a return for the investment.
The mitigating circumstances of the breach have been identified in the decision as to breach and will not be repeated. If Mr Renault’s description of the breach as mid-range is accurate, it is certainly at the low end of that range. Mr Williamson’s defence of the breach is understandable given the circumstances of the race. There are no aggravating personal factors and Mr Williamson’s record for a busy South Island driver is very good.
That there was a dead-heat and the mitigating circumstances of the breach lead to a one-day reduction from the 3-day starting point in the Penalty Guide.
Mr Williamson is suspended from driving from the end of the meeting on 26 October up to and including 29 October 2023. This is 2 days.
Decision Date: 22/10/2023
Publish Date: 26/10/2023