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R Te Aroha 6 July 2018 - R 4 - Chair, Mr G Jones

Created on 09 July 2018

Rules:
638(3)(b)(ii)
Committee:
GJones (chair)
ADooley
Name(s):
Mr S Fannin - Rider of MASTER POET
Mr M Williamson - Senior Stipendiary Steward
Informant
Mr A Coles - Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
A10140
Plea:
Admitted
Charge:
Excessive Use of Whip
Evidence:

Following the running of race 4, the Te Aroha Liquor 2200, an Information was filed pursuant to Rule 638(3)(b)(ii) alleging that Class D rider Mr S Fannin used his whip excessively when riding MASTER POET.

Mr Fannin acknowledged that he understood the nature of the charge and the relevant Rule. He confirmed his admission of the breach.

Rule 638(3)(b)(ii) provides that a Rider shall not:
(ii) strike a horse with a whip in a manner or to an extent which is excessive

The “Guidelines with Respect to Acceptable Use of the Whip” provide:
Without affecting the generality of Rule 638(3) (b) a rider may be penalised if their whip use is outside of the following guidelines:

Inside the final 600 metres of any Race, official trial or jump-out a horse may be struck with the drawn whip up to five times after which the rider must cease their use of the whip for a minimum of five strides before striking the horse again with the drawn whip, with this restriction to apply prior to the final 100 metres. The whip may then be used at the rider’s discretion until the winning post is reached.

Prior to the final 600 metres of a race, official trial or jump-out the use of the drawn whip is acceptable if used in moderation and not continually.

Using available video footage Senior Stipendiary Steward, Mr Williamson demonstrated the alleged breach. He confirmed that Mr Fannin struck his mount, MASTER POET, at least 18 times prior to the final 100 metres. He said that although there were breaks between the strikes there was no more than 3 strides respite rather than the required 5 strides.

In response Fannin advised the Committee that he accepted his use of his whip was “careless and unnecessary”. He said that he has a bad habit of hitting his mounts down the shoulder after only 3 strides. He added that he was very disappointed in himself for this breach. 

Decision:

As Mr Fannin admitted the breach the charge is proved. 

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Coles said that Mr Fannin has twice previously breached the whip rules in the past 12 months. The first being on 5 April 2018 at Taranaki where he was fined $300 for excessive whip use (11 strikes). The second breach occurred on 16 June 2018 at Manawatu where Mr Fannin incurred a 2-day suspension (8 strikes and using his whip above shoulder height). Mr Coles said that 18 strikes was at the high end and would require a suspension. He submitted that due to this being a serious breach a suspension in the vicinity of 4 or 5 days would be appropriate.

Mr Fannin asked the Committee to consider a combined fine and suspension due to the jumps season being short. He added that he would not be seeking a deferment and could commence a suspension immediately.

In response to a question from the Committee the Stewards said that they would object to a combined fine and suspension in this case. 

Reasons For Penalty:

The Committee considered all the evidence and submissions presented. We deliberated for some time before deciding on an appropriate starting point for jump/highweight riders having regard to the starting point for a third breach set out in the JCA Guidelines and the limited riding opportunities available during the jumping season. After careful consideration we determined that for a third or subsequent breach a 3 to 5 national jump days was appropriate. We placed Mr Fannin’s offending at the high end and adopted a 5 day starting point.

We discuss further in this decision the various factors that influenced our reasoning.

The JCA Guidelines establish the starting point for (first, second, or third) breach of Rule 638(3)(b)(ii) – as follows.
1st breach - $300
2nd breach - $500
3rd or subsequent breach 6-8 national riding day suspension

This is Mr Fannin’s third breach of the whip rule in the last 12 months and NZTR records show that he has had 54 rides to date this season. The breaches have occurred over a relatively brief period of time and Mr Fannin continues to show a disregard for the use of whip guidelines. It is of concern to the Committee that it is only Mr Fannin’s second day back riding after having served his earlier whip suspension. His record under this rule is poor and notably the worst of the jump/highweight riders.

By any measure 18 strikes of the whip is grossly unacceptable and places Mr Fannin at the top end of culpability. The Informant sought a suspension of between 4 and 5 days whereas Mr Fannin asked the Committee to consider a combined fine and suspension. We note also that his mount MASTER POET won the race, but for the purpose of our decision we treat this as a neutral factor.

In assessing an appropriate penalty, we considered and gave due weight to a number of competing, but nevertheless relevant factors.

These included the need to strike the right balance between Mr Fannin’s degree of culpability and the need to ensure animal welfare consideration is paramount.

The Committee felt the breach was sufficiently serious to ensure that the penalty needed to ensure Mr Fannin is held to account and we denounce his conduct. On the other hand, we are acutely mindful that jumping and highweight riders have significantly fewer riding opportunities due to the jumps season taking place over the winter months.

Although the JCA Penalty Guidelines make no special provisions for jumps riders, Committees are vested with considerable discretion to take into account a wide range of relevant factors. Also, the whip guidelines do enable Committees to give due consideration to any exceptional circumstances.

Arising from the Phelan V RIU (2013) Appeal Decision it is now widely accepted practice for Committees to give special consideration to jumps riders when affixing penalties for careless riding – for example low, mid-range and high range careless riding breaches have their starting points set at 3 (low), 4(mid-range) and 5 days (high range) respectively, as opposed to 6, 8 and 10 for flat riders.

In our deliberations we have taken some guidance from the In the Phelan decision. We noted that the sole ground for the appeal was “that the Judicial Committee erred in selecting a starting point of suspension for a period of five days. In particular it is submitted that in fixing that starting point the Judicial Committee failed to take any or sufficient account of what is described in the submissions as the ’imbalance’ that jumping riders experience in comparison with flat riders, in terms of the restricted riding opportunities available to jumping riders throughout the season. Submissions from both the Appellant and RIU recognised that jumping riders do have limited opportunities and this view was supported in the appeal decision in the following terms “The relevant starting point should be properly, in circumstances such as this case, take account of the limited riding opportunities available to jumping and highweight riders such as Mr Phelan”

It was further emphasised in the decision that “This Decision does no more than reflect the Tribunal’s view that because of the limited riding opportunities available to jumping and highweight riders during the season departure from the recommended starting points contained in the Penalty Guide is a matter Judicial Committees should have regard to in selecting starting points in cases in which breaches of the Rules are alleged against jumping and highweight riders”.

In weighing up the various factors considered above the Committee arrived at a starting point of 5 national jump/highweight (riding) days. Adopting the Phelan principle, we considered this to be commensurate with a high-end careless riding breach for a jump/highweight rider and an appropriate starting point in the circumstances of this case.

We afforded Mr Fannin no discount for his admission of the breach which accords with the new whip guidelines and we applied a 1-day penalty uplift for his poor record. This equates to 6 days.

After arriving at the proposed 6-day penalty, we applied it to the racing calendar to identify available race meeting where national jumping and highweight races are scheduled to be programmed. This identified that Mr Fannin’s proposed suspension would conclude after the first day of the Grand National meeting at Christchurch on Saturday 4 August 2018. We then assessed whether missing a Premier meeting would be too harsh and gave consideration to a combined fine and suspension. We noted the Stewards objection and also took cognizance of the fact that it is not generally the practice of Committees to substitute part of a suspension for a fine when the projected last day of a suspension is a Premier or Iconic raceday. Nevertheless, we did give this matter some thought and determined there were no sufficiently compelling reasons to substitute any or part of Mr Fannin’s proposed suspension with a fine.

In finally reaching our decision we had regard for the public’s perception of what we deemed this to be a grossly unacceptable high number of strikes and as alluded to early in this decision the fact that animal welfare must always be at the forefront of our decision making under this rule.

After taking into account all the factors the Committee arrived at a 6 national day suspension.

Penalty:

Accordingly, Mr Fannin’s license is suspended from the conclusion of racing Friday 6 July until the conclusion of racing on Saturday 4 August 2018, (6 national jumping/highweight days).

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