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NZ Metropolitan TC 22 December 2017 - R 1 - Chair, Mr R McKenzie

Created on 26 December 2017

RMcKenzie (chair)
Mr MJ Stratford - Advanced Amateur Driver
Mr NM Ydgren - Chief Stipendiary Steward
Information Number
Excessive Use of Whip

Following the running of Race 1, Bishopdale/Bush Inn TAB’s & Tavern Harewood (Amateur Drivers) Mobile Pace, an Information was filed by Chief Stipendiary Steward, Mr NM Ydgren, against Licensed Advanced Amateur Driver, Mr MJ Stratford, alleging that Mr Stratford, as the driver of LIVING LEGEND in the race, “used his whip in an excessive manner inside the final 400 metres”.

Mr Stratford was present at the hearing of the Information. At his request, the Rule and the Use of the Whip Regulations were read to him and he indicated that he understood those and the charge against him. He indicated that he admitted the charge.

Rule 869 provides as follows:
(2) No horseman shall during any race use a whip in a manner in contravention of the Use of the Whip Regulations made by the Board.

The Use of the Whip Regulations provide:
(b) No horseman is permitted to use their whip in a striking motion on more than ten occasions inside the final 400 metres. This is inclusive of “backhanders” and the use applies to the horse, harness and/or sulky.

Mr Ydgren, using the video replays, pointed out Mr Stratford, driving LIVING LEGEND, in the one-one position and about to draw out for a run 4-wide as the field approached the home turn. Mr Stratford then commenced using his whip and, from that point, used his whip in excess of 20 times to the finishing line, Mr Ydgren submitted. Mr Ydgren said that there were some “flicks and taps” which made the total count in “the mid-twenties”.

Mr Stratford accepted the count as alleged by Mr Ydgren. 


Mr Stratford having admitted the charge, the charge was found proved.

Submission For Penalty:

Mr Ydgren told the Committee that this was Mr Stratford’s first drive back after serving a suspension of 6 weeks imposed on him for a breach of the whip Rule at the meeting of Kaikoura TC at the end of October, which he described as “pretty disappointing”. Prior to that, Mr Stratford had a breach of the Rule on 4 August 2017 (fined $450) and had had only six more drives between that and the Kaikoura charge.

Mr Ydgren submitted that there is an “inherent problem” with Mr Stratford understanding the Rule or his ability to apply it. Fines and suspensions do not appear to be working for him. The starting point under the new Regulation for 17-plus strikes is a fine of $500 but this applies only to a first offender, Mr Ydgren said. He submitted that a period of suspension, greater than that of the 6 weeks imposed at Kaikoura, should be imposed for this breach it being Mr Stratford’s third. He suggested that a combined penalty of a suspension and a fine could be considered.

Mr Stratford said that he was not in a good financial position at present but, nevertheless, submitted that he would prefer to pay a greater fine rather than a longer suspension.

Mr Stratford’s explanation was that he was unaware of the new Regulations and believed that it was permissible to hit the horse with the reins in both hands. He felt that he had been complying with the guidelines but accepted that he had not done so and, hence, had admitted the charge. The strikes were not hard, he submitted, and he had not “bashed” the horse. 

Reasons For Penalty:

Mr Stratford’s persistent offending under the excessive use of the whip Rule is, clearly, of concern to the Stewards and is also of concern to this Committee. The two most recent penalties referred to appear to have not deterred him, as this breach was in his first drive since being suspended at Kaikoura on 30 October last. Effectively, in eight drives this season, Mr Stratford has now breached the excessive use of the whip Rule three times.

It has to be acknowledged that, although the number of strikes on this occasion, in excess of twenty, was concerningly high, they were not delivered with a lot of force. Nevertheless, such use of the whip is totally unacceptable and the penalty must reflect this.

In determining penalty, the Committee has taken the Penalty Guide starting point for a second breach of a 3-5 days suspension. The Penalty Guide does not make provision for a starting point for a third breach. A starting point at the top of that range of 5 days is appropriate, this being Mr Stratford’s third breach within the 6 months’ period. We have applied an uplift of one drive to that starting point for the high number of strikes.

The sole mitigating factor is Mr Stratford’s frank admission of the breach, albeit inevitable in this case. For that we have allowed a one-drive discount, bringing us back to five days or, on the basis of the accepted formula of one drive every two weeks for an amateur driver, a 10-weeks’ suspension.

As suggested by Mr Ydgren and favoured by Mr Stratford, the Committee is prepared to shorten that period by imposition of a fine. The amount of that fine will be $200 and we deem that the period of suspension is thereby reduced to eight weeks. In fixing the amount of that fine, the Committee has deemed it not appropriate in this case to equate one drive with a fine of $50, as suggested in the Penalty Guide.


Mr Stratford’s Advanced Amateur Driver’s Licence is suspended from after the close of racing today, 22 December 2017, up to and including 16 February 2018 – 8 weeks. In addition, Mr Stratford is fined the sum of $200.00.

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