Result of an appeal (Dan Skelton and David England) heard by the Disciplinary Panel on Thursday 19 November

20 Nov 2015 Disciplinary Panel - Appeals against decisions on a Racecourse

Dan Skelton and David England

  1. On 19 November 2015, the Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) heard an appeal lodged by Dan Skelton the trainer and David England the rider of ARTHAMINT in the Novices’ Handicap Steeple Chase at Lingfield Park on 10 November 2015. The appeal challenged the findings of the Lingfield Park Stewards that both Skelton and England were in breach of Rule (B)67.4.4 in that England had weighed in at 11st 7lb having weighed out at 11st 9lb. They suspended England for 3 days and fined Skelton £750. The disqualification of ARTHAMINT was mandatory under Rule (B)67.10 and was not subject to appeal.
  2. The hearing before this Panel operated as a rehearing. Rory Mac Neice represented England and Skelton. The BHA’s case was presented by Lyn Williams.
  3. The BHA submitted that the decision of the Steward’s on the day should be upheld, and that there were not sufficiently unusual circumstances to explain a loss of weight in excess of the 1lb allowed. The BHA accepted that the Panel has a discretion where the allowance is exceeded under Rule (B)67.11, and submitted that that discretion should only be exercised in favour of jockey and/or trainer where the explanation was likely to explain the loss of weight in its entirety.
  4. The BHA contended that sweating could not explain the weight loss on its own, and that in any event, clothing would absorb much of the sweat. The BHA also pointed out that whilst two other jockeys in the same race lost weight of up to 0.5lbs, England was the only jockey to have lost up to 1.5lbs.
  5. England informed the Panel that it was an unusually warm and humid day and that he was wearing his heavier winter equipment. The horse was very difficult, and indeed had bolted through the rails on a previous occasion when ridden by Harry Skelton.
  6. England said he took ARTHAMINT down to the start early with permission of the Stewards, and the horse was agitated and felt ready to “explode” and take off. At the start another horse unseated its jockey and galloped at least once round the track and this caused ARTHAMINT to get more wound up, and the start to be delayed for 5 minutes.  England stated that from mounting ARTHAMINT in the paddock to dismounting at the end of the race, he was on the horse for not less than 30 minutes, and prior to the race he was having to work exceptionally hard to control the horse and was sweating profusely, followed by completing a 2½ mile chase.  He said his loss of weight of 1.2lb was only 0.2lbs over the allowance, and was explained by the above unusual circumstances.  England confirmed that there had been no equipment changes of any sort between weighing out and weighing in.
  7. Skelton, who was at Huntingdon races on the day, was represented at Lingfield by Mr Guerriero. Skelton confirmed the problems they had had with ARTHAMINT as outlined by England, and told the Panel that Mr Guerriero had confirmed to him there had been no equipment change between weighing out and weighing in, as Mr Guerriero had told the Stewards on the day.
  8. The Panel found, having considered all the evidence before it, including the transcript of the enquiry, that they accepted that England had weighed in 1.2lbs lighter than weighing out.
  9. The Panel also noted that whilst all other jockeys bar one weighed in light, albeit within the allowance, none had experienced as much weight loss as England.
  10. However, the Panel considered that there were a number of highly unusual circumstances which warranted careful scrutiny, for example, the fact that England was on his horse in total for not less than ½ hour, that ARTHAMINT was very difficult to restrain for much of that time, that it was an unseasonally warm day, and he was wearing his winter riding equipment.
  11. The Panel considered that England and Skelton had both been forthright and honest in their evidence to the Panel. The BHA in fact, made no suggestion of any improper behaviour.
  12. The Panel concluded that there was no evidence to suggest any other reason for the loss of weight. Accepting, as they did, the evidence of England and Skelton, the Panel concluded that England’s explanation was likely to be correct.  In the circumstances, the Panel allowed the Appeal of both England and Skelton.  The Panel  would however, wish to emphasis that it is only in wholly unusual circumstance, such as prevailed here, that a loss of weight in excess of 1lb will be found to be excusable.

Notes to Editors

1. The Panel for the hearing was: Philip Curl (Chair), Diana Powles and Edward Dorrell.