18 May 2017
1. The Disciplinary Panel of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) on 27 April 2017 heard the Appeals against the decision of the Ffos Las Stewards that Mr Burchell, the trainer was in breach of Rule (C)45, and Mr Dunne, the rider, in breach of Rule (B)59.2 in respect of the running and riding of BIG CHIP AND PIN in the Davies Chemists Ltd Novices Hurdle Race on 16 April 2017. The horse was placed fourth, 37 lengths behind the winner and 27 lengths behind the third.
2. The Stewards imposed a fine of £3,000 on Mr Burchell, suspended Mr Dunne from riding for 14 days and suspended BIG CHIP AND PIN from running for 40 days.
3. Prior to the enquiry, both parties had agreed that they had no objection to the Panel members sitting.
4. The appeal was by way of a rehearing. Mr Lyn Williams presented the case on behalf of the BHA. Mr Burchell was represented by Ms Dawn Bacchus, and Mr Dunne by Mr Rory Mac Neice.
5. The Panel viewed a number of videos of the race at Ffos Las and heard evidence from Mr Dunne and Mr Burchell. The Panel were also showed videos of races at Chepstow on 17 January 2017 and 13 March 2017 in which BIG CHIP AND PIN had run, ridden by Mr Dunne. The horse had run prominently until the later stages when he faded right out of contention, seemingly through lack of stamina.
6. Mr Dunne’s evidence was that with these experiences in mind he decided (at Ffos Las) not to try and go with the leading horses when they quickened about 7 furlongs from the finish as he considered that if he did his horse would not last home. Once in the straight he was able to pass a number of horses to obtain 4th place, but there was no prospect of doing better than that as the leading horses had got a long way in front.
7. Mr Williams contended that BIG CHIP AND PIN had not been run on its merits as Mr Dunne had not made “timely, real and substantial efforts” to achieve the best possible placing and it must be inferred that Mr Burchell had sent the horse to race with a view to schooling or conditioning the horse.
8. Mr Mac Neice submitted that in whatever manner the horse was ridden it was not going to do better than to be placed fourth. Accordingly, it was ridden to achieve the best possible placing and there could be no breach of the Rules as alleged.
9. Ms Bacchus adopted Mr Mac Neice’s submissions, and contended that Mr Burchell’s instructions to Mr Dunne to “get what you can” were in the circumstances quite adequate.
10. We consider that on a proper construction of the relevant Rules if we are to find a rider in breach we must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that if the horse had been ridden differently there was at least a realistic prospect of it being better placed than fourth.
11. We are unable to make such a finding. We have little doubt that Mr Dunne concluded long before the finish that he could do no better than finish fourth and having achieved that position rode the horse somewhat tenderly thereafter. With more vigorous endeavours we consider he could have finished considerably closer to the third placed horse. But we are not of the view, on our assessment of the evidence, that there was any real prospect of doing better than that.
12. The enquiry that the Ffos Las Stewards convened and conducted was fully justified but we are unable to support their conclusion that there was a breach of Rule (B)59.2 on account of BIG CHIP AND PIN not being ridden to achieve the best possible placing.
13. Having regard to that decision we do not consider that there is sufficient evidence to uphold the finding that Mr Burchell was in breach of Rule (C)45.
14. Accordingly the appeals must be allowed and the penalties imposed by the Stewards at Ffos Las quashed.