Slee Blackwell’s Roderick Moore gave a talk to members of the National Trainers Federation (NTF) at Taunton Racecourse on Monday, 11 January 2016.
The meeting was chaired by Dawn Bacchus of the NTF, who is herself a Chartered Legal Executive.
Roderick (a barrister and partner with Slee Blackwell solicitors specialising in disciplinary law) addressed the group of West Country trainers on reducing the risks of falling foul of the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) Rules of Racing.
The BHA oversee the running and riding of horses in Britain and regularly summon trainers as well as jockeys before their Disciplinary Panel when breaches of the Rules are adjudged to have taken place. The Panel also hears appeals from decisions taken on the racecourse by the Racecourse Stewards at a Stewards’ Enquiry.
The BHA has the power to impose significant fines, with the entry point for many offences being at the £3,000 level. Suspensions of both Jockeys and horses are also regularly imposed.
The keynote of Roderick’s talk was that many transgressions of the Rules concerning running and riding are avoidable and that trainers will often be able to prevent penalties being imposed with a little care and forethought.
Roderick provided a useful overview of the Rules, including the requirement for a horse to be run on its merits and the duty to obtain the best possible placing.
Trainers can be automatically disciplined, along with the Jockey, if the BHA considers that the rider has intentionally failed to ensure that a horse has been run on its merits.
There are potential defences and mitigating factors that can be relied upon by trainers and Roderick stressed the need for these factors to be raised as early as possible; ideally at or even before the Enquiry immediately after the race.
In particular, Roderick advised trainers on the quality of the instructions they are expected to give Jockeys, and provided some useful hints on how to avoid situations which might lead to a case being referred to the Disciplinary Panel for lack of proper instructions.
The trainer’s instructions to the Jockey should include such issues as whether to drop in, drop out, or make the running, as well as use of the whip.
As with other areas of the law, “proof” is king. Roderick explained how important it is for trainers to retain written evidence of the instructions given to the Jockey. This can be in the form of a simple e-mail or even a text message. Coherent, bespoke instructions are required for each race and trainers cannot rely on custom, past experience or intuition as evidence of satisfactory instructions.
Dealing with Enquiries can often be a matter of common-sense and trainers were reminded that evidence given is recorded, so they should not be rushed into providing a definitive view before having had the opportunity of properly reviewing a race. Roderick suggested that trainer’s comments should therefore be prefaced with a caveat that it is only a preliminary or provisional view and subject to variation at a later date if appropriate.
Roderick also recommended that trainers should take a dispassionate and objective approach to challenges and resist the temptation to remain loyal to the Jockey in all situations.
Finally, Roderick gave trainers some tips on how to deal with Stewards before going on to answer questions from an appreciative audience.
Dawn Bacchus concluded the meeting with a reminder of the terms of the NTF legal expenses insurance scheme and the need for claims to be submitted as early as possible in view of the very strict time limits laid down by the BHA.
Plans are being made for Roderick Moore to provide his seminar at other locations in the UK, but in the meantime if you have a racing or BHA disciplinary query that you would like to share with him then please call our free legal helpline on 0800 955 1038.