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Non Raceday Inquiry RIU v R D Close - Decision dated 3 December 2019 - Chair, Mr R G McKenzie

Created on 05 December 2019

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

AT CHRISTCHURCH

IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing

IN THE MATTER of Information No. A9027

BETWEEN S P RENAULT, Stipendiary Steward for the Racing Integrity Unit

Informant

AND ROBBIE DEAN CLOSE of Woodend Beach, Licensed Open Driver

Respondent

Judicial Committee: Mr R G McKenzie (Chairman)

Ms O K Jarvis

Date of Hearing: 29 November 2019

Venue: Stewards’ Room, Addington Raceway, Christchurch

Present: Mr S P Renault, the Informant

Mr R D Close, the Respondent

Date of Oral Decision: 29 November 2019

Date of Written Decision: 3 December 2019

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

Background

[1] Mr Renault has filed Information No. A9027 against Licensed Open Driver, Mr R D Close, alleging that in Race 12, XCM Sport Mobile Pace, at the meeting of New Zealand Metropolitan TC held at Addington Raceway on 15 November 2019, Mr Close “drove carelessly on the final bend when shifting outwards forcing BELMONT MAJOR (M Purdon) wider on the track resulting in the trailing SOUNDSLIKEART (T M Williams) being checked” in breach of Rule 869 (3) (b).

[2] Mr Renault produced a letter from Mr M R Godber, General Manager of the Racing Integrity Unit, authorising the lodging of the information pursuant to rule 1108 (2).

[3] The information has been served on Mr Close and signed by him. He indicated in the Statement by the Respondent on the information form that he admitted the breach of the rule.

[4] Mr Close was present at the hearing of the information and he confirmed that he admitted the breach.

The Rule

[5] Rule 869 provides as follows:

(3) No horseman in any race shall drive:

(b) carelessly.

Evidence

[6] Mr Renault showed a video replay of the final 500 metres of the race. He pointed out LET’S HUSTLE, driven by Mr Close, racing three places back on the markers, being followed by BELMONT MAJOR (M Purdon), racing four places back and SOUNDSLIKEART (T M Williams) following that runner on the markers.

[7] Passing the 500 metres, SOUNDSLIKEART improved its position from the rear, wider on the track. BELMONT MAJOR also improved to the outside of LET’S HUSTLE. Mr Close was held up by the tiring FRANCO TEXAS and shifted wider on the track, which he was not entitled to do as Mr Purdon on his outside was not able to relieve any pressure on SOUNDSLIKEART, which was improving on the outside of BELMONT MAJOR.

[8] Mr Renault demonstrated that Mr Close could be seen to attempt to move back down but, unfortunately for him, interference had already taken place, Mr Renault said. SOUNDSLIKEART broke for several strides and lost its position.

[9] Mr Close said it was a “domino effect” onto Mr Williams’ runner which broke for only “a couple of strides”. He said that he had reacted when he saw that something had gone wrong.

Decision

[10] The charge was found proved.

Penalty Submissions

[11] Mr Renault told the hearing that Mr Close has had 92 drives this season and last season had 383 drives. He has a previous breach of the rule – Oamaru on 24 October 2019, fined $200 for striking a wheel, 44 drives ago. So, this is Mr Close’s second breach in the last 6 months, Mr Renault said.

[12] Mr Renault referred the Committee to the Penalty Guide starting point for a second breach of a 3-days suspension. Stewards were submitting that a suspension of 3 days would be an appropriate penalty.

[13] The hearing then looked at the upcoming meetings at which Mr Close would be likely to drive. Mr Close said that trainer, Mr R W Todd, had horses at the meeting of Auckland on 3 December and he had booked to travel to fly to Auckland on Sunday to drive them. Mr Todd had told him that he would not require Mr Close to drive at the Auckland meeting if he wished to be released. He would be driving at that meeting if he were not to be suspended, Mr Close said.

[14] Mr Renault had no objection to the Auckland meeting on 3 December being included in any term of suspension.

Reasons for Penalty

[15] The Committee decided that an appropriate penalty was a suspension for three meetings, noting that the Penalty Guide starting point was a 3-days suspension. The Committee assessed the breach as being low-end and there were no aggravating factors. Although Mr Close admitted the breach, the view of the Committee is that that factor did not warrant any discount from the starting point.

Penalty

[16] Mr Close’s Open Driver’s licence is suspended from after the close of racing on 1 December 2019 up to and including 7 December 2019 – 3 days. The meetings intended to be encompassed by the term of suspension are Auckland TC on 3 December, Auckland / Forbury Park on 6 December and NZ Metropolitan / Invercargill on 7 December.

R G McKENZIE

(Chair)

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