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Non Raceday Inquiry HRNZ v S D Lethaby 26 February 2010 - decision



869.3.b
1103.4.c

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE
HELD AT CHRISTCHURCH

IN THE MATTER     of the New Zealand Rules              of Harness Racing

AND 

IN THE MATTER  of Information No. 68302

BETWEEN K R WILLIAMS, Stipendiary Steward for Harness Racing New Zealand,
                    Informant

AND S D LETHABY, Licensed Open Horseman,
         Defendant

DATE OF HEARING: Friday, 26 February 2010

VENUE: Judicial Room, Addington Raceway, Christchurch

JUDICIAL COMMITTEE: R G McKenzie (Chairman),   J M Phelan,  S C Ching

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

Information No. 68302 was filed by Stipendiary Steward, Mrs K R Williams, against Licensed Open Horseman, Mr S D Lethaby, alleging a breach of Rule 869 (3) (b) in that Mr Lethaby as the driver of ALL MIGHTY in Race 10, Colombus & Ware 650 Colombo Street Mobile Pace, at the meeting of New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club held at Addington Raceway, Christchurch, on 12 February 2010, “drove carelessly striking a wheel causing his own horse to break”.



BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE
HELD AT CHRISTCHURCH

IN THE MATTER     of the New Zealand Rules              of Harness Racing

AND 

IN THE MATTER  of Information No. 68302

BETWEEN K R WILLIAMS, Stipendiary Steward for Harness Racing New Zealand,
                    Informant

AND S D LETHABY, Licensed Open Horseman,
         Defendant

DATE OF HEARING: Friday, 26 February 2010

VENUE: Judicial Room, Addington Raceway, Christchurch

JUDICIAL COMMITTEE: R G McKenzie (Chairman),  J M Phelan,  S C Ching

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

Information No. 68302 was filed by Stipendiary Steward, Mrs K R Williams, against Licensed Open Horseman, Mr S D Lethaby, alleging a breach of Rule 869 (3) (b) in that Mr Lethaby as the driver of ALL MIGHTY in Race 10, Colombus & Ware 650 Colombo Street Mobile Pace, at the meeting of New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club held at Addington Raceway, Christchurch, on 12 February 2010, “drove carelessly striking a wheel causing his own horse to break”.

The information was filed otherwise than during a race meeting and Mrs Williams produced the written permission of Mr E J Rennell, General Manager of Harness Racing New Zealand, pursuant to Rule 1103 (4) (c), to the filing of the information.

Mr Lethaby was present at the hearing of the information and he indicated that he did not admit the breach.

Rule 869 provides as follows:
(3)   No horseman shall in any race drive:-
      (b)   carelessly.

Mr R D Holmes, driver of STRAWBS FIRE CHIP in the Race, said that he had been following FRANCO JAMAR (C D Thornley) and then elected to go 3-wide. When he went to shift out and go forward, just after passing the 1,000 metres, Mr Thornley came out underneath him and forced him another half cart wider. He attempted to get back on the back of Mr Thornley and, at the same time, Mr Lethaby (who had been racing four back on the markers) shifted out into the one out line to the 3-wide position. He said it was a case of he and Mr Lethaby going for the same gap. He believed that Mr Lethaby’s horse “went rough” and broke shortly thereafter. Mr Holmes said that he felt that he was back on Mr Thornley’s back and was entitled to be in the 3-wide line – he was not 4-wide. He said that there was no contact of which he was aware. He made no attempt to push Mr Lethaby back down. Mr Holmes said that it would have been “a bit tight” for Mr Lethaby to attempt to get into the 3-wide line – there was never a full run for Mr Lethaby’s horse and sulky. He had an advantage at all times over Mr Lethaby. Mr Holmes agreed with Mrs Williams that Mr Lethaby’s manoeuvre was a risky one. Mr Holmes had attempted to give him some room. Mr Holmes pointed out the incident on video replays.

Mr Lethaby did not wish to ask Mr Holmes any questions.

Messrs N G McIntyre and S P Renault, Stipendiary Stewards, gave evidence as to their observations of what happened. Mr McIntyre stated that Mr Lethaby’s manoeuvre was a risky one occurring, as it did, on the apex of the bend. There was, at best, “half a gap”. He questioned whether it was manoeuvre that a reasonable and prudent driver would have made. Mr Renault said that he had viewed the incident from the patrol box at the end of the back straight. His assessment of the incident was that Mr Lethaby had attempted to take a gap that was never really there. He had plenty of opportunity to restrain his horse onto the back of the horse in the one-out line. He agreed it was a high risk manoeuvre at that point on the track – the sharpest bend on the track, Mr Renault said.

Using the video replay, Mr Lethaby alleged that Mr Holmes was clearly 4-wide and that he, Mr Lethaby, had moved out onto the back of Mr Thornley in the 3-wide line. Things had “got a bit tight” but he denied that he had hit a wheel. His horse had broken when its leg had struck the stay of Mr Holmes’ sulky. He believed that he had every right to come out but Mr Holmes had come back in, he alleged. He had to nurse the horse when things got tight.

Mrs Williams sought leave of the Committee to delete the reference to striking the wheel in the charge. This was explained to Mr Lethaby. The Committee was of the view that Mr Lethaby would not be prejudiced by the amendment and leave was granted to amend the information.

Mr Lethaby submitted that it was difficult to tell from the camera angle exactly what had happened. Mr Lethaby alleged that he was squarely on the back of Mr Thornley before his horse broke. Mr Holmes had tightened his horse and caused it to break. There was no video evidence to support the contention that he was not in a gap. He had not got hard onto the back of Mr Thornley because Mr Thornley’s horse had too much acceleration.

Mr Lethaby called Licensed Open Driver, Mr J R Dunn. Mr Dunn had driven ELENA DE GEROLSTEIN in the Race. Mr Dunn said that, from his vantage point (at the rear of the field), he had observed Mr Holmes forced to race wider on the track. Mr Lethaby had followed Mr Thornley out and was on his back, Mr Dunn said. Mr Holmes had come down “very sharply” onto Mr Lethaby causing Mr Lethaby’s horse to break. It happened very quickly but he had seen it happen. When shown the video replay, Mr Dunn said it was difficult to see. Mrs Williams questioned Mr Dunn as to whether he had had a good view of the incident.

The Committee carefully viewed the video replays and listened to the evidence and submissions of the parties.

The Committee found that, just past the 1000 metres, Mr Lethaby driving ALL MIGHTY was racing four back on the markers. At that point, Mr Thornley on FRANCO JAMAR, moved out to race 3-wide, just in front of Mr Holmes on STRAWBS FINE CHIP who was improving and was forced wider on the track by Mr Thornley. Mr Lethaby then saw the opportunity to move off the markers into the space that had been created.

The Committee found that Mr Lethaby attempted to get onto the back of Mr Thornley in the 3-wide line but he was unable to do so because there was insufficient room between Mr Thornley and Mr Holmes who was settling back into the 3-wide line behind Mr Thornley.

The Committee found that, at no stage, was there sufficient room for Mr Lethaby to get fully onto the back of Mr Thornley. It further found that Mr Lethaby’s manoeuvre was high risk but he persisted in his outward movement when it would have been prudent for him to have desisted and stayed in the one-out line on the back of TALK ABOUT COURAGE (R J Alfeld), given as stated that there was not sufficient room for him to continue shifting out. He was not entitled to ease Mr Holmes out because he could not do so with safety.

The video evidence in this case was not entirely satisfactory because of the point on the track where the incident took place but it, nevertheless, seemed to support the version of what happened put forward by the Informant. The Committee was impressed by the evidence of Mr Holmes and Messrs McIntyre and Renault and preferred this to Mr Lethaby’s evidence.  The Committee did not attach a lot of weight to the evidence of Mr Dunn because of the position from which he viewed it.

The Committee found that Mr Lethaby’s driving fell short of the standard of a reasonable and prudent driver and, therefore, the Committee found that the charge of careless driving was proved.

In relation to penalty, Mrs Williams informed the Committee that Mr Lethaby had had 351 lifetime drives and 32 winning drives. In the current season he has had 17 drives for 1 win and 3 placings. In the 2008/2009 season, Mr Lethaby had a total of 25 drives. His last charge was in 2006.

Mr Lethaby stated that he would prefer a term of suspension to a fine in this case. He said that he had 4 or 5 drives coming up. He had one horse of his own with his father that was due to race again and his employer, Roger Austin, had ALL MIGHTY and another and he had another two horses of his brother’s coming up. 

In determining penalty, the Committee took into account Mr Lethaby’s good driving record and his preference for a suspension. The Committee was satisfied that a suspension was appropriate. Mr Lethaby’s licence was suspended from the conclusion of racing on 26 February 2010 up to and including 10 March 2010 – effectively 3 driving days. 


R G McKenzie       J M Phelan and S C Ching
CHAIR                    Committee Members

 

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