Result of an enquiry (Wilson Renwick) heard by the Disciplinary Panel on Thursday 29 January

03 Feb 2015 Disciplinary Panel - Referrals from Racecourse

1. On 29 January 2015, the Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) held an enquiry to establish whether Wilson Renwick, the rider of the winner NEFYN BAY, had committed a breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 of the Rules of Racing by his use of the whip in the Skybet’s Mo Rattu Delivers Excellent Service Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Race at Doncaster on 23 January 2015. The matter was referred to the BHA by the Doncaster Stewards following an enquiry on the same day because this was Renwick’s fifth offence of mis-use of the whip, warranting a suspension of between two and six days, in the last six months.

2. Renwick was represented by Rory Mac Neice, who before the hearing had raised questions about the composition of the Panel that was due to hear this referral. His concern was that Mrs Lucinda Cavendish and Lady Celina Carter should not be sitting on the Panel, because they had sometimes acted as Stewards with Mr Charles Warde-Aldam (Chairman of the Doncaster Stewards on 23 January 2015) at other racecourses. This, he submitted, raised a concern that Mrs Cavendish’s and Lady Celina’s impartiality might be thought doubtful by outside observers.  He was careful to say that he was not suggesting that either Mrs Cavendish or Lady Celina were in fact biased – that is, pre-disposed to follow (or perhaps, even, to disregard) a decision to which Mr Warde-Aldam had been party. The problem was one of outsiders’ perception, he said.

3. At the hearing itself on 29 January, Mr Mac Neice did not pursue his objection in the light of indications from the Panel that it was not accepted that either Mrs Cavendish or Lady Celina was required to stand down. He said that his concerns might be raised in future discussions between the BHA and the PJA. As the matter was not fully argued out before this Panel, it is not appropriate to express in detail why the Panel took the view that it was proper for Mrs Cavendish and Lady Celina to participate in the hearing. However, an indication of the reasoning follows below.

4. The legal test to be applied is this – would a fair-minded and informed observer conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased? This is sometimes called, for shorthand, the apparent bias test.

5. Quite simply, this Panel did not feel that Disciplinary Panel members who also work as Stewards at racecourse meetings could ever reasonably be suspected of bias either for or against the views of their fellow Stewards expressed on other occasions, unless there is some additional and specific basis for such a concern. Of course, no Steward who took part in reaching a decision on the racecourse will ever sit on a Disciplinary Panel which is hearing a challenge to that decision. But that is a completely different question than that raised by Mr Mac Neice. He relied upon the BHA’s long-standing practice to exclude a Disciplinary Panel member from sitting on an appeal from a racecourse where that member sometimes stewards. He suggested, logically enough, that that was no different in principle to his current objection, and that it did not matter where individuals may have stewarded together. That practice, however, may be unnecessary in this Panel’s view.

6. Apart from the conclusion of general principle expressed above, there were some particular features in this case which contradicted the need for the approach Mr Mac Neice advocated. Among these were: –

i) The occasions when either Mrs Cavendish or Lady Celina were co-stewards of Mr Warde-Aldam seem to have been few and far between. A survey of the BHA’s records shows that Mrs Cavendish has stewarded with him on just four days at Ascot: once in 2014, twice in 2013, and once in 2012. Lady Celina co-stewarded with him on four days also: not at all in 2014, twice in 2013 at Ascot and York, and twice in 2012 at Ascot.

ii) The present case was a referral from the racecourse. Before the Doncaster Stewards and before this Panel, Renwick admitted that he had hit his horse twice in the wrong place. So it is next to impossible to see any live issue upon which either Mrs Cavendish or Lady Celina were capable of being suspected of bias, in the sense that they might have been pre-disposed to follow or reject a decision to which Mr Warde-Aldam was party. The issue for this Panel was whether it should disregard those hits in the exercise of its discretion.

iii) Recently, Mrs Cavendish sat on a Disciplinary Panel that had to consider a challenge to a decision by the Kempton Park Stewards. She frequently stewards at Kempton. Because of the unavailability of other Disciplinary Panel members to sit in this case, the parties were asked if there was any objection to her participation. Mr Mac Neice, acting for the appellant, said that he had no objection to departing from the usual practice of excluding from a Panel those individuals who steward at the racecourse from which an appeal or other matter comes. The present objection to her participation was inconsistent with that example, particularly given that she has a more regular association with the Kempton Stewards than with Mr Warde-Aldam.

7. Moving therefore to consider the substance of this case, the Panel first noted that the admitted hits occurred about half a furlong from the finish. Both times, Renwick hit the horse on its ribs. The second hit was particularly obvious, with the whip nearly vertical when he made contact with the horse’s ribs beneath and below the number cloth.

8. Mr Mac Neice’s argument was that these hits should be disregarded by following the guidelines for exercising discretion set out at pages 25-29 of the Guide to Procedures and Penalties. He pointed out that Renwick’s ride was otherwise a model of jockeyship complying with the Rules – a submission the Panel agreed with. He relied also upon a recording of a later race on the same day at Doncaster, when discretion was exercised in favour of Tony McCoy, who gave his mount 10 hits. Mr Mac Neice demonstrated that one of those hits was probably on the horse’s ribs. However, this only became visible when the recording was played a number of times and slowed down to quarter speed. The Stewards’ Report for the day does not indicate that this was picked up. The Panel, therefore, did not regard this as an instance where discretion was exercised to ignore a hit in the wrong place.

9. This Panel did not feel it could exercise discretion to ignore two clear hits on NEFYN BAY’S ribs. This was not, for instance, a case where the whip makes contact both with a horse’s quarters and forward of them, when doubt exists about the extent of the impact forward of a horse’s quarters. Renwick’s two hits were too obviously misplaced to be ignored. These amounted to a breach of the Rules which would have warranted a suspension of four days.

10. Renwick has thus committed five whip breaches (three of them leading to two day suspensions and two of them producing four day suspensions) since 3 October 2014. In that time, he had 177 rides. The Panel suspended him from riding for 24 days, of which eight days are deferred for two months until 21 April 2015. The presently operative part of the suspension runs from Friday 6 February 2015 until 21 February 2015 inclusive.

11. When imposing this length of suspension, which is above the entry point indication of 21 days, the Panel took account of some aggravating features of Renwick’s case. It is only six months since July 2014, when he was last referred for misuse of the whip. The present run of Rule breaches has occurred within a time period of just three-and-a-half months, when he has been averaging just 12 rides per week. Put another way, approximately every 30th ride for Renwick has produced a breach of the whip Rules. Furthermore, three of the five breaches during the three-and-a-half months have been for striking his horse in the wrong place. Against these features, the Panel set the fact that these were clearly not the actions of a win at any cost jockey. The two misplaced hits in the present case, for instance, were given in an attempt to maintain the horse’s concentration as it approached the finish, when it was showing signs of reducing efforts prematurely. Renwick recognises that he has fallen into a bad habit which he fully acknowledges he must correct. The Panel considered whether it should require Renwick to attend a remedial course. It decided not to do so, because Renwick is sufficiently senior, sufficiently sensible, and has sufficient insight into his own problem to deal with this himself, and to get help from another jockey or jockeys of his own choosing.


Notes to editors:

1. The Panel for the enquiry was: Timothy Charlton QC (Chair), Lucinda Cavendish, Lady Celina Carter.