Results of enquiries (Epsom Downs Racecourse and Dominic Sutton) heard by the Disciplinary Panel on Thursday 9 October

09 Oct 2014 Disciplinary Panel - Referrals from Racecourse

Epsom Downs Racecourse

The Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) on 9 October 2014 held an enquiry to consider whether or not Epsom Downs Managing Executive had committed a breach of Rule (F)15.2.3. of the Rules of Racing, in light of BHA General Instruction 10.1 para 18, headed “Starting Arrangements, Farriers and Advance Flag Operators (AFOs)”, in that after the Starter raised his flag to signal a false start to the third race at Epsom Downs on 25 August 2014, the AFO failed to have his Fox 40 whistle with him and was therefore unable to use it (in conjunction with his recall flag) to draw the riders’ attention to the fact that the Starter had called a false start. As a consequence of the AFO’s failure, the race had to be declared ‘void’.

The Panel noted that TAURUS TWINS ridden by Kieran O’Neill, had anticipated the start, broke open the gates of its stall and began in advance of the other runners. The Starter immediately called a false start and waved his flag to this effect. The evidence from the riders at the original Stewards Enquiry was that the AFO was out of their line of sight, particularly given the poor visibility due to heavy rain, and because of this they continued on in the race. At a subsequent Stewards Enquiry held later the same day the AFO confirmed he had taken several steps to his right prior to waving the recall flag and that he did not blow the whistle as required. The AFO also confirmed that prior to the third race, due to the weather conditions, he had changed his white overcoat as it was now wet, but that he inadvertently left his Fox 40 whistle in the first coat. As the operating procedures were not followed by the AFO the Stewards decided that no action would be taken against the riders.

Having considered the evidence, including verbal submissions from Andrew Cooper, Clerk of the Course, the Panel found that the Executive was in breach of Rule (F)15.2.3.

The Panel fined the Executive £2,700.

Dominic Sutton

The Disciplinary Panel noted that Mr Sutton continued in the race after MARUFO (IRE) had gone lame, using his stick and jumping 2 fences. His failure to pull up, and then not to dismount immediately, was not in the best interest of the welfare of the horse. Furthermore, his action put the reputation of the sport at risk.

His unacceptable incorrect assessment that the gelding was ‘feeling the ground’, rather than the correct scenario, not only led him to continue in the race on an injured horse, but put his own safety and that of the other jockeys in the race in jeopardy.

The gelding was removed to the racecourse stables by horse ambulance and examined by the Veterinary Officer who found it to be injured and lame on both front legs. At the hearing the Panel were given a veterinary report from the trainer’s veterinary surgeon who stated that the gelding would not be euthanised – it was hoped he would recover to make a hack.

The Panel took into account all the appropriate and relevant facts, and Mr Sutton attended the hearing in person, so the Panel were able to assess his level of contrition, his age and riding experience. The former was totally accepted, and welcomed by the Panel who felt that the offence occurred through a lack of experience and horsemanship.

Mr Sutton told the Panel that he had ridden in pony races, had ridden out at home in the school holidays, and that he had ridden in 15 races and a ‘handful’ of point to points. They heard that he had successfully passed the course to obtain his Category B licence and was to be attached to Warren Greatrex’s stable. It also heard from his father that John Reid had agreed to arrange for Mr Sutton to receive guidance from Jason Maguire and Sam Twiston-Davies.

In imposing a penalty of 11 weeks suspension the Panel felt that it would afford Mr Sutton sufficient time to hone his horsemanship and gain valuable experience by riding racehorses on the gallops regularly, before riding in a race again.  Rather than harm a young jockey’s career, the Panel felt that the length of time was reasonable to allow him to put this very unfortunate offence behind him and that he would resume race riding in the New Year as both a more capable rider and more experienced horseman.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Panel for the Epsom Racecourse hearing was: William Barlow (Chair), Mrs Didi Powles and Roger Bellamy.

2. The Panel for the Dominic Sutton hearing was: Hopper Cavendish (Chair), Mrs Didi Powles and Roger Bellamy.